We’re hearing the match will resume tomorrow at 11am BST/12pm Paris time before the women’s final, with Djokovic or Thiem then having a quick turnaround before Sunday’s final ... against Nadal, no less. There’s no doubt Rafa will be enjoying this. Thanks for reading/emailing/tweeting today, sorry we couldn’t continue, but we’ll be back tomorrow. Au revoir!
As the sun peeks out from behind the grey skies, it’s announced that ... play has been cancelled for the day. A big call from the organisers. They must be expecting some heavy rain. It’s hard to know whether Djokovic will be pleased, given how unhappy he was with the conditions today, or annoyed that he now faces playing on three consecutive days if he’s to win the title. I’m sure Thiem, however, would have liked the chance to get back out there this evening.
Meanwhile Johanna Konta has had her say on the scheduling at Roland Garros.
Here’s the match reports from the other semi-finals in case you’ve missed them:
That 5.05pm BST/6.05pm Paris time marker has ticked by and still no word when this semi-final may resume ...
The weather forecast for the next few hours in Paris isn’t looking too great, with the rain not expected to completely clear until around 9pm (8pm BST), by which point it’ll be too dark to play, in the absence of any floodlights. At least there’ll be a roof on Philippe Chatrier, hopefully next year if not for 2021. This is the only slam without a roof on the main court.
Meanwhile Abhijato Sensarma emails, offering a far more considered analysis of this semi-final than anything I’ve managed so far: “The first set reminded me of cricket in England. Thiem was Jimmy Anderson (anytime post-2008) while Novak was Virat Kohli (pre-2018) - the latter would dominate the former on the ‘hard’ surfaces, but in windy conditions the former has dominated the latter with unexpected authority, helped by the Kohli-eque rage from the opponent when things haven’t gone his way. In the second set Thiem continued like Anderson always does, at the top of his game. But Novak is now Kohli (post-2018): he’s learning to respect the conditions as well as the skills of his opponent. That has made it a highly entertaining contest between two people trying to utilise their widely-acclaimed skill-sets to their best to come out on top. Makes for incredible viewing!”
Jacob appears to be enjoying the adverse weather about as much as Djokovic did in that first set, and he’s decided he’s had enough, so I’m back. Fair-weather Steinberg. We were just discussing whether there have been windier conditions at a slam, when I found this gem on Twitter, from Indian Wells in 2009:
The match will not resume until: at least 5.05pm BST/6.05pm Paris time.
The covers are on. We could be waiting a while.
That was a wonderful spell from Thiem, but the worry is his momentum might be halted by another rain delay. The umbrellas are up again and both players have left the court. This might be a longer delay than last time.
Third set: Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 1-3 Thiem (*denotes server): Djokovic looks on forlornly as another Thiem backhand flies by for 30-all. He doesn’t seem entirely comfortable. Suspicions that he’s still not right when a dismal drop shot hits the net, gifting Thiem a break point. Then the wind starts to cause problems for both players. They both struggle to read the bounce of the ball and the rally ends with Thiem completely misreading a Djokovic forehand. No bother, he makes up for it with a brilliant backhand pass down the line for a second break point. This time Thiem goes on the offensive, pushing Djokovic back with a series of enormous forehands, and he grabs the break when the world No1 blocks a forehand long.
Third set: Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 1-2 Thiem* (*denotes server): At 15-all Thiem lashes a forehand out of reach and punches his fist. These are crucial moments. He holds to 15 with a gorgeous backhand that draws coos of admiration from the crowd.
Third set: Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 1-1 Thiem (*denotes server): Djokovic double-faults to make it 15-all. Then at 30-all Thiem produces a stunning, chopped drop shot to earn a break point. Djokovic glares and stares at his box, a flummoxed man. There follows a tense rally, but Thiem overcooks a sliced backhand, the ball drifting wide. The Austrian buries his face in his shirt for a moment. It was a poor shot and it allows Djokovic to scramble clear.
Third set: Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 0-1 Thiem* (*denotes server): Thiem starts the third set with a hold to love.
“For whom to root?” asks Gregory Phillips. “I wanted Federer, as the underdog, to beat Nadal, and once he lost I wanted Nadal to beat Djokovic because I just can’t warm to Novak even though I’m not sure why. But if Thiem wins here, I’ll be at a bit of a loss. I should root for the underdog to get his first slam, but wanting Rafa to lose a French Open final feels like heresy.” And with that to ponder, I’ll leave you with Jacob. I’m off for a break. À plus tard!
Djokovic wins the second set 6-3!
Since the resumption this has been a different match. Djokovic charges to 40-15 in the blink of an eye and secures the set on the first of his set points. Having resented the adverse conditions it’s an irony that it’s the rain that has completely changed the complexion of this contest.
Second set: *Djokovic 2-6, 5-3 Thiem (*denotes next server)
For the first time, Djokovic gets to 15-30 on the Thiem serve. He does so with a lovely volley that has the crowd chanting his name. And they’re roaring in delight after the next point, which he wins with a probing shot that Thiem can only net, after several sliced forehands from Djokovic to deal with the wind. He’s starting to get the measure of it. And from 15-40 he breaks! The real Novak Djokovic, the world No 1 and current holder of three of the four slam titles, is standing up.
Second set: Djokovic 2-6, 4-3 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic seems slightly more at ease since the delay. He no longer seems to be raging against the conditions. Admittedly his rage often makes him a better player, but I’m not sure it has today. 15-0, 30-0, 40-0. Game, as his effort just clips the sideline. And game on. This is so much more competitive now.
Second set: *Djokovic 2-6, 3-3 Thiem (*denotes next server)
As the delay was so short, only seven minutes, they’ll get straight back to business rather than having a warmup. Thiem, remember, is serving at 30-0. The break appears to have done Djokovic some good. He wins the first two points but then, off-balance and on the stretch, slaps into the net. 40-30. Deuce. Djokovic is spinning and sliding on the baseline, showing the best of his defence in a 19-shot rally, but Thiem is the one celebrating when he punches away a winning volley. Advantage Thiem. And that’s an impressive hold given the mid-game interruption.
The players are back out. While we wait for them to resume battle, here’s some news regarding Serena Williams:
The rain is already easing, though little chance of the wind doing the same. This could be a fairly brief interruption.
Second set: Djokovic 2-6, 3-2 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic decides to reply with a love hold of his own, rounding things off with a wonderfully nonchalant volley on the spin. The commentators are discussing what it would take for play to be suspended, with the umpire having told Djokovic earlier the wind would have to be “dangerous”. How do you define that? The wind does seem to be picking up even more speed, but with Thiem serving at 30-0, it’s the rain that takes them off court. For the first time today, play has been halted. Djokovic couldn’t have got off court faster; arguably it’s the most dynamic move he’s made today.
Second set: *Djokovic 2-6, 2-2 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Thiem is serving beautifully. The Austrian’s landed 85% of his first serves, won 86% of points on his first serve and 100% on his second. He isn’t giving Djokovic, the best returner in the game, a look-in. And there’s another hold to love.
Second set: Djokovic 2-6, 2-1 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Even on the television, you can hear the wind whistling loudly around Chatrier. It must be ringing in Djokovic’s ears when he slumps 15-40 behind on serve. Thiem’s won twice as many points as Djokovic so far. Thiem lobs long on the first break point after a Djokovic serve-volley, and Djokovic repeats the tactic on the second break point. Again it’s a successful one. Deuce. Thiem repeatedly slices his backhand on the next point before cutting himself into pieces. Advantage Djokovic. Egalite. Advantage Djokovic. Jeu Djokovic. Perhaps he’ll feel a little more battle hardened after that.
Second set: *Djokovic 2-6, 1-1 Thiem (*denotes next server)
With the Djokovic slam in danger, the world No 1 decides to step up early to serve at the start of the second set. He does at least regroup enough to hold to love. But Thiem has won 15 consecutive points on serve, and he makes that 17 as he sprints 30-0 ahead in the next game. Djokovic draws from cheers from the crowd when he stops the sequence with a winner down the line. 15-30. 30-all. Thiem holds from there, but at least there were signs of some green shoots of recovery from Djokovic. “Walk on through the wind ... walk on through the rain,” emails Peter Oh. “As a Domi Thiem fan I was hoping that Djokovic would get blown away, but not literally.”
Thiem wins the first set 6-2!
Djokovic is calling for the referee. He thinks the wind is making this unplayable. But it’s the same for Thiem, too, and it was the same for Nadal and Federer before them. Djokovic needs to accept the conditions and move on. Thiem is taking little time here to serve the set out. 15-0, 30-0, 40-0, game and set, as Djokovic, barely moving his feet, blazes into the tramlines.
First set: Djokovic 2-5 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic is at the net when Thiem’s effort rocks him back, before a giant gust of wind blows a cloud of clay into his face, to add insult to injury. 0-15. 0-30. 0-40, when Djokovic uncharacteristically flunks into the net. Djokovic attempts the serve and volley but is broken to love.
First set: *Djokovic 2-4 Thiem (*denotes next server)
After the greyest of skies, the sun decides to briefly make an appearance, before disappearing as quickly as it came. Thiem appears to be almost relishing these conditions, while Djokovic is clearly uneasy, he just seems to be waiting for them to change. If he’s not careful this set will get away from him before they do. Some smart serving from Thiem gives him a two-game cushion once more.
First set: Djokovic 2-3 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic seems to have adopted Federer’s mindset. He’s playing well within himself. But it’s enough to get him through this game, conceding only the one point. I’m not sure who’s more muted: him or the crowd.
First set: *Djokovic 1-3 Thiem (*denotes next server)
Strange scenes as Djokovic, his head covered in a towel as he hides from the wind and rain, appears to have told the umpire he won’t play. He then changes his mind and decides to get back to action. This being clay, the players can carry on unless the rain gets much harder. But Djokovic clearly isn’t relishing these conditions. Thiem holds to 15 once more. He’s won 12 of the last 14 points.
First set: Djokovic 1-2 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
Thiem, the fourth seed, navigates his way through his opening service game with almost as much ease, before stealing the first point on Djokovic’s serve. 0-15. 0-30, when Djokovic hits long - blame the wind for that. It’s also starting to rain harder now. Those fans who’ve decided not to take a break are getting their umbrellas out. We’ve done well to get this far through the day’s play without a rain break, however the forecast for the next few hours is worse. Djokovic scrambles to 15-30, appears to be in charge of the next point, approaches the net ... but Thiem’s pass is just too good. 15-40, two break points. Djokovic drives his backhand into the net and Thiem takes the first break!
First set: Djokovic 1-0 Thiem* (*denotes next server)
The spectators, having failed to all take to their seats until about an hour and a half ago after a long lunch, are now being bumped out because tickets for this match have been sold as a separate event. The stadium is virtually empty as Djokovic steps up to serve. The pair sound each other out in the opening exchange, which lasts 20 shots. The next three points are much quicker and Djokovic delivers a love hold.
One thing that will always bug Djokovic, even if he does hold all four slam titles by Sunday and goes on to chase down Federer’s grand slam record, is that he’ll never be as loved as the Swiss:
Tik! Tok! Tik! Tok! They’re warming up, so proceedings will commence soon.
A crazy stat for you: Thiem is the only active player under the age of 28 to have played in a men’s grand slam final.
Djokovic hasn’t dropped a set this fortnight but you’d expect this semi-final to be more competitive than the first. Thiem is such a talent on clay, and is appearing in the last four at Roland Garros for the fourth consecutive year, having finished runner-up to Nadal last year. Thiem has beaten Djokovic at the French Open before, prevailing in straight sets – 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 – two years ago. But that was the 2017 Djokovic, who was injured and suffering a crisis of confidence. This is the 2019 Djokovic, the current holder of three of the four slams who has reacquainted himself with greatness and is chasing his second Novak slam.
Here’s Simon Cambers’s match report for you:
Nadal wasn’t quite the all-conquering force on clay that we’ve come to expect in the buildup to this tournament, losing three matches on the surface this spring, but he’s showing no signs of relinquishing his French Open crown. Today’s win in the Chatrier dust bowl - perhaps some of the worst conditions seen at Roland Garros – means Federer still hasn’t beaten him here. Only two men have managed that ... and of course one of them is coming up next. Novak Djokovic will be on court shortly against Dominic Thiem.
Nadal certainly seems to hope so, as he lavishes praise on his defeated opponent in the on-court interview. Which is en Francais. Merde! But suffice to say Rafa’s happy to be in the final of what he calls the most important tournament of his career.
Nadal beats Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2!
Nadal wallops a forehand winner down the line for 15-0. Federer whacks a tame backhand into the net for 30-0. They’ve put a lot of water on the court to stop the clay from blowing about – but the dirt is flying into Nadal’s face, stopping him from serving. Eventually he does, 30-15. Which soon turns into 40-15, two match points. Federer’s rocket of a return draws the error from Nadal. But it matters not because Federer’s next return sails well long and Nadal is through to his
73rd sorry 12th French Open final! Nadal once again gets the better of Federer at Roland Garros in this epilogue to their wonderful rivalry. Federer gets a standing ovation as he walks off court and Nadal, ever the gentleman, is also applauding. Despite Federer’s defeat today, you have to say it was the right decision for him to return to Roland Garros after four years away. Reaching the semi-finals will surely have exceeded his expectations. But will he be back next year?
Third set: Federer 3-6, 4-6, 2-5 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Federer decides to extend his misery for a little longer, pulling off perhaps his best shot of the match at full stretch to hold serve to 30. But Nadal will come out after the break to serve for a place in yet another French Open final.
Third set: *Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-5 Nadal (*denotes next server)
Federer is looking rather grumpy, as well he might as he gets beaten up by his greatest rival. His mood lightens slightly with a brilliant backhand drop-shot, which leaves Nadal slipping and sliding towards the net. Even Nadal isn’t getting that back. And there’s another delightful drop-shot for deuce. Nadal sends Federer scurrying right and left and right and left on the next point, before securing advantage. Federer tonks a backhand wide and there’s barely a cheer on Chatrier as Nadal takes the game. The sentimental spectators wanted Federer to win this, but that’s not going to happen.
Third set: Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-4 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Quite ridiculous from Nadal on break point, when a game of cat and mouse ends on the 16th shot when the Spaniard’s effort skids on the sideline. There’s the double break and Nadal has mastered both his opponent and the conditions. He’s potentially only two games away from a 12th Roland Garros final.
Third set: *Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-3 Nadal (*denotes next server)
The wind is showing no signs of letting up and neither is Nadal. Having given Federer a glimmer at 30-all, he batters a backhand winner for 40-30 (has there been a more improved shot in tennis over the past few years than Nadal’s backhand? It’s now such a weapon) and ace No 3 of the match makes it game.
Third set: Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-2 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
To give you an idea of the scale of the task now facing Federer: Nadal is 222-2 in best-of-five matches when two sets up, and he’s never lost from this position on clay. Nadal skips through on serve to love and not long after has two break points at 15-40. Federer Federer fires out and is broken. He promptly smashes the ball into row Z - that’s not something you see too often – and the umpire even has the audacity to give the GOAT a warning.
Third set: Federer 3-6, 4-6, 1-0 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Thanks Will. I’ve had my lunch, and it would appear most of the spectators have too, because the stands are nearly full. It only took them until 2.45pm. Tsssk. I know Will and I have been banging on about the wind but my God, it is so windy on Chatrier. It reminds me of a match between Federer and Agassi at the 2004 US Open, one of the first grand slams I covered, when the tail end of a hurricane was whipping its way through New York. Federer was immovable then, and played one of the most perfect sets of tennis I’ve ever seen against Hewitt in the final, but he’s in danger of being swept away here. Nadal has a chance to break at the start of the third set but Federer digs deep from 30-40 down to hold.
Katy is back, which is good news for everyone.
Nadal wins second set 6-4
Federer sends a backhand just long as Nadal does not give him any opportunity to hit anything close to a winner. A backhand into the net from the baseline puts Nadal into complete command. Three set points arrive when Federer fails to get on top of a bouncing ball. It’s all done as Federer whacks one well long (with a little help from the wind). Nadal is two sets up!
Second set: Federer 4-5 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
No messing about from Federer as he hooks a forehand which Nadal does not even consider chasing. Ooooh! Federer with a stunning drop shot which Nadal gets to, but his reward is watching a backhand volley speed past him. Federer thinks he’s found the line but his forehand flies just wide to bring the score to 40:30. Federer then miscues a backhand off the edge of his racket which loops wide to take us to deuce. Plenty of back and forth ends with Nadal whipping a forehand which Federer can’t get back to, as Nadal takes the advantage. BREAK! Nadal reads what Federer is doing with a drop shot, getting to it and then volleying a winner to put him in the driving seat. He will be serving for the set now.
Second set: Federer* 4-4 (0-1) Nadal (*denotes next server)
New balls here. Maybe they should try weighing them down a bit. Federer fails to test the new balls by whacking his return into the net but follows it up with a winner thanks to an incredible backhand right into the corner to level things up. Some lovely play at the net concludes with Nadal smashing a winner after Federer gets caught in two minds and just loops up a chip to Nadal to demolish. Nadal notches the first double fault of the match, much to his frustration. Somehow, I don’t know how, Nadal nails a backhand just outside of Federer’s reach to get to game point. Nadal is forced to the net, lifts it over but Federer is waiting to whip a backhand beyond his opponent. Nadal rightly celebrates gaining the advantage with a forehand to the baseline with Federer advancing after a great rally. There is a fist pump when he then holds, too.
Second set: Federer 4-3 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
An elegant Federer moves Nadal around, allows him to drop a winner over the net to make it 30:15. A powerful forehand from Nadal darts across the court and well wide. Federer holds thanks to a vicious serve which Nadal fails to return.
Second set: Federer* 3-3 (0-1) Nadal (*denotes next server)
The game starts with a fine rally, aided by some smooth striking of the ball from the baseline but it’s Nadal who takes the opening point as Federer whips a shot into the net when looking for a winner down the line. Federer gains revenge as he forces an outstretched Nadal to loop a shot well wide but the Spaniard whacks a forehand which Federer cannot cope with to edge ahead. There is plenty of red dust flying around the court, causing a slight delay but it does not affect Nadal who completes the win as Federer’s return lands long.
Second set: Federer 3-2 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Federer forces Nadal to the net but, despite making up plenty of ground, gifts an easy volley for Federer to lift a winner into the vacant half of the court. He isn’t so composed next time around, sending a volley straight into the net. Federer completes with the hold with a fierce forehand to the baseline which seems to die on Nadal and he cannot get it back.
Second set: Federer* 2-2 (0-1) Nadal (*denotes next server)
If this was cricket, they would certainly be utilising the heavy bails in these conditions. Nadal volleys but it clips the net and bounces wide to level things at 15:15. Both players are finding their rhythm in this wind, working out how powerfully they need to hit it in tough conditions. Maybe Nadal is a little more in tune with the wind, as he proves by finishing off the game with a volley at the net to level the set up.
Second set: Federer 2-1 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Federer goes 0:30 down after completely mishitting a shot which loops very long from the baseline. He gets back into it with some bold hitting and moving Nadal around the court, finishing off the point with a smash into a whole load of space. A backhand across court gives Nadal two break points - it is a lovely shot, especially in these conditions. Nadal miscues his return, looping the ball somewhere into the crowd to let Federer back in. He makes better contact on the next serve but it lands long, taking us to deuce. Advantage Federer as Nadal whacks it long - he really is having trouble working out how hard to hit it in the wind. A stunning rally between the forehand of Federer and backhand of Nadal ends with the Spaniard whacking a winner down the line to bring us back to deuce. An overhit backhand gifts Nadal advantage and he completes the break after Federer fails with a smash which seemed to take an age to come down in the wind, allowing Nadal to position himself to whip the ball past Federer.
Second set: Federer* 2-0 (0-1) Nadal (*denotes next server)
There is plenty of wind flying around, this time aiding Federer who counters the power of Nadal with some cunning shots before a slice from Nadal is thrown wide by the breeze. Then Federer plays a complete air shot to a Nadal serve after the ball dies and goes under the racket. Despite this Federer earns two break points but quickly gives up the first but he BREAKS after a backhand flies wide from behind the baseline. Nadal will blame the wind, I am sure. GAME ON!
Second set: Federer 1-0 (0-1) Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Federer bounces back from the disappointment by going 30:0 up but a cracking volley and a lob from Nadal brings him back into the game. It was a great lob from the baseline which Federer could not retrieve. Federer gets to game point with a forehand which seems to die in the wind and he holds thanks to Nadal sending one wide.
While the players quickly refuel between sets, I’m off for some lunch. Will Unwin will take you through the next chapter ...
Nadal wins the first set 6-3!
Nadal is serving for the set. At 30-all, Federer seems to think Nadal’s serve is going to his backhand, but it fizzes to his forehand, which doesn’t land back in play. 40-30, set point. Federer survives when Nadal’s effort catches the net and lands wide - but he then flings a backhand long and it’s Nadal’s advantage. Cue an obligatory “VAMOS!” from the Spaniard. The pair are playing close to the lines here, left and right and left and right, and Nadal settles matters in some style, with a 84mph cross-court backhand! This match has a strange feel to it, what with the wicked wind and tardy spectators, but there’s nothing unfamiliar about the scoreline. This has gone the way that all but one of their previous Roland Garros encounters have; with Nadal taking the first set.
First set: Federer 3-5 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
With Djokovic on 15 slams (only two behind Nadal), you’d have to say if he were to win the title here it would only be a matter of time before he chases down Federer’s 20. The younger challengers still don’t appear quite up to the task of joining the grand slam winners’ table - though of course Thiem should give Djokovic a good test this afternoon. But Thiem is not such a danger away from Roland Garros and who else is ready to step up? Tsitsipas perhaps. But anyway, back to more immediate matters. Some wonderful strikes from Nadal on the backhand side and he holds to 30. Federer replies with his first love hold.
“I think the significance of this Fed vs Nadal match might be underestimated,” emails Nicolaas Van den Broek. “This is actually Nadal’s to lose, as reaching Fed’s 20 grands slams will be nigh on impossible if he fails here – and he knows it. By that logic this is a Goat match (for those Nadal disillusionists).”
First set: Federer 2-4 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
Sacré bleu! Yet another break point, at 30-40 on the Federer serve. Pas de probleme pour Federer though, who gets to deuce, before saving another break point. But here’s a third, as the game time ticks over five minutes. But Federer does the business once more. Egalite. The pair then engage in prolonged combat, Federer looks in charge but his drop-shot is so wide it almost didn’t make the tramlines! Break point No 4, break point No 5, break point No 6 ... it’s clear the crowd are supporting Federer rather than their 11-times champion but they can’t help rally Federer here, as the Swiss slaps into the net.
First set: *Federer 2-3 Nadal (*denotes next server)
Nadal is struggling to serve as the clay is blown up into his face in these most testing of conditions. But you have to say they favour him; he’s one of the best wind players out there, with his superb spin, footwork and large margins. However just to disprove my point, Nadal’s backhand goes long and Federer breaks back. And here’s one for you to enjoy:
“Ash Barty is an inspiration for a generation of young Australian girls, just as Evonne Goolagong-Cawley and Margaret Court were,” emails Bronwyn Debenham. “It’s been a long time coming, and Aussies are proud of her stoic determination and exemplary sportsmanship. Go Ash. We’re proud of your achievements.” Yes - I don’t think there are many more likeable players on Tour than Barty. She would be a popular grand slam winner. And her achievement in reaching the final is all the more impressive given she burned out, quit tennis and became a cricketer, before deciding to come back to tennis. It was three years ago this week that Barty re-entered the WTA rankings down at 623. She’s now guaranteed a place in the top five.
First set: Federer 1-3 Nadal* (*denotes next server)
I’m definitely with Pseudo Fed on points 5 and 6. I sense I may get hangry fairly soon. You’ve been warned. Federer, however, is feeling slightly better when he finishes off his best rally so far by running around his backhand to dispatch a forehand winner down the line. He gets on the board with a hold to 15.
First set: Federer* 0-3 Nadal (*denotes next server)
The wind appears to have picked up since the women’s semi-finals. It’s swirling around Chatrier and blows Federer off course in his opening service game, as he’s broken from deuce. Nadal promptly backs up the break.
First set: Federer* 0-1 Nadal (*denotes next server)
So are you ready for the 39th instalment of the Federer and Nadal rivalry? I’m not sure the Parisian patrons are - several of them are still having their lunch - COME ON, IT’S ROGER V RAFA! – but anyway, let’s play. These two start as they mean to go on, with an attritional opening game lasting eight minutes, featuring a break point for Federer, but Nadal survives an uncomfortable opener with an eventual hold.
I’ve had a few emails saying the page hasn’t been updating. Apologies, I’ve just been told there have been a few technical gremlins at our end, but if you manually refresh hopefully the updates you missed will appear.
Federer sounded like a plucky lucky loser ranked 163 in the world rather than most decorated man to have ever played tennis when talking about the task he faces this afternoon.
“It’s going to be tough - but you just never know,” he said of facing Nadal. “He might have a problem. He might be sick. You might be playing great or for some reason he’s struggling. Maybe there’s incredible wind, rain, 10 rain delays. You just don’t know.”
If this was Wimbledon Federer could probably make it rain, given his God-like status there. But Roland Garros, of course, is Nadal’s kingdom and the Spaniard is going for a remarkable, record-extending 12th title.
Nadal hasn’t lost to Federer on clay since the 2009 Madrid final, has won all five of their French Open meetings, including four finals, and leads their head-to-head on clay 13-2. But ... Federer has won their last five matches, including in the 2017 Australian Open final. And here’s a stat for you: the last time Nadal was able to defeat Federer, Djokovic had only six grand slam titles (his current tally: 15).
“We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other,” said Nadal. “So it’s another episode of this, and I’m happy and excited. It’s a special moment.”
No more time to chatter about Barty v Vondrousova in tomorrow’s final right now though, because there’s the not-so-small matter of Roger and Rafa getting under way on Philippe Chatrier. This is relentless ...
Barty beats Anisimova 6-7, 6-3, 6-3
Over on Lenglen, Barty has three match points on her serve at 5-3, 40-0, having also had three match points in the previous game. The first and second come and go – Anisimova appears as if she’s about to seal another great escape – but at the sixth attempt Barty finally brings to end the most wild of matches!
Much of talk in the buildup to the French Open was about whether Vondrousova’s more decorated compatriot Karolina Pliskova could finally secure her first slam, but instead it’s another Czech who’s through to the final. “It was a very tough match today,” says Vondrousova. “I’m happy I kept my nerves at the end.” Konta, meanwhile, arguably shows some niftier footwork than she did during most of the match as she scurries off court in double-quick time.
Vondrousova beats Konta 7-5, 7-6
Konta is only one mini-break down but she surely can’t afford to lose the next point, as a few umbrellas spring up in the stands, as if we need any more drama right now. And come the moment for Vondrousova, she comes up with her best shot of the match, a winner that leaves Konta rooted to the clay. 5-2 Vondrousova, 6-2, when Konta biffs a backhand long. Vondrousova has the luxury of four match points ... and she needs only one when her nerveless drop-shot is cushioned by the wet clay! The 19-year-old is through to her first grand slam final and Konta, having led 5-3 in both sets, is out. It’s a match she really should have won. Unfortunately the nerves got to her.
... Konta is fortunate to win the next point. It’s 3-2, but another Konta miss and it’s 4-2 Vondrousova as they change ends ...
Vondrousova, however, only two years older than Anisimova, is keeping her emotions in check. She’s 2-0 up in the tie-break, Konta gets to 2-1, but a weak drop-shot is gobbled up by Vondrousova for 3-1 ...
What of Barty, you ask? It’s her advantage in the decider, leading 4-2. Anisimova, only 17 years old remember, is looking fairly emotional.
Second set: Konta 5-7, 6-6 Vondrousova*
“Konta must dig deep here, deeper than she’s ever had to dig,” says Chris Evert. “She’s had 5-3 in both sets, she should be off court as the winner by now.” Instead Konta is in danger of soon walking off court as the loser. But credit to Konta, from 15-all she moves quite easily to 40-15. She then wallops a serve one way before fizzing a forehand the other and that’s the game. It’s tie-break time!
Second set: *Konta 5-7, 5-6 Vondrousova
Vondrousova whizzes through her second consecutive love hold. Konta must hold serve after the changeover to stay in this semi-final.
Second set: Konta 5-7, 5-5 Vondrousova*
Konta steps up to serve, hoping this game will go much better than at the same juncture of the first set. Vondrousova appears unhappy with the drizzle but the umpire is showing no sign of pulling them off. Konta is in trouble at 15-30, and faces a crisis at 15-40 after losing out in an exchange at the net. Two break points. Konta serves, charges to the net, and is rewarded for her courage. 30-40. She could do with landing a few more first serves - but that she doesn’t. And she can’t get her second in either. Konta concedes the break with a double fault. Konta will be kicking herself if she loses this semi-final given the chances she’s had. The look on her face suggests she doesn’t have the belief to win this match.
Second set: *Konta 5-7, 5-4 Vondrousova
Vondrousova holds to love. Back to you, Jo ...
Second set: Konta 5-7, 5-3 Vondrousova*
Konta is cruising at 40-0 but lets Vondrousova back in. Deuce. Konta gets to advantage with a serve out wide followed by a backhand to the open court, the classic one-two punch. It’s something that’s brought her success today and she could do with doing it more often. Konta comes through from advantage and she leads 5-3. Just as she did in the first set. And we know what happened then ...
Barty and Anisimova have decided to stop the craziness. Barty holds at the start of the third before Anisimova duly does the same. It’s 1-1.
Second set: *Konta 5-7, 4-3 Vondrousova
Three consecutive holds. And I’ve just thought: Roger and Rafa are due to start in just over 20 minutes. There’s too much going on! Could they hold them off until these matches are over? Though somehow I don’t think those two will wait for anyone.
Barty wins the second set 6-3!
Huge cheers from the Australian fans on Suzanne Lenglen though, where Barty, having led the first set 5-0, lost it 7-6 and fallen 3-0 behind, has seized the second set 6-3 against Anisimova! They’re going to a decider but who would be crazy enough to predict that one?
Second set: Konta 5-7, 3-1 Vondrousova*
Konta consolidates the break to – it has to be said - rather muted applause. There aren’t many British fans on Court Simonne Mathieu, and the spectators don’t seem to know who to support. It probably doesn’t help that both players are hitting more unforced errors than winners – it’s an edgy match to watch.
And we’ve still got Rafa v Roger and Djokovic v Thiem to come. Phew.
Second set: *Konta 5-7, 2-1 Vondrousova
Chris Evert makes the point on Eurosport that none of these four semi-finalists are playing at their best – perhaps there’s too much at stake as they all seek to reach their first major final – but these are captivating contests. Konta breaks Vondrousova for 2-1. Barty, from 3-0 down, breaks Anisimova for 4-3. The ebbs and flows of tennis, eh?
Second set: Konta 5-7, 1-1 Vondrousova*
Vondrousova holds serve at the start of the second set for her fifth unanswered game. Konta shows character to stop the rot for 1-1, just as Barty also stems the flow, scrapping her way to 3-2 behind against Anisimova. But as things stand we’re on course for an all-teenage final. It would be the first at a slam since a 17-year-old Serena Williams beat an 18-year-old Martina Hingis at the US Open 20 years ago.
These are two wildly entertaining semi-finals. It’s such a shame they’re being played away from Philippe Chatrier, under grey skies and in front of nowhere-near full stands.
Konta loses the first set 7-5 against Vondrousova
Konta has looked so assured tactically during this tournament. In the past you felt she only really had a plan A; now she’s able to think her way through matches more. But she’s in a complete muddle right now. She’s making some strange shot decisions and from 5-4 when she had three set points, her game has unravelled. Vondrousova has a set point at 30-40 on Konta’s serve. And Vondrousova is absolutely clinical with a cool lob.
First set: *Konta 5-6 Vondrousova
It’s raining on Konta, both literally and figuratively, as she is broken while serving for the opening set, just as the first rain drops of the semi-final come down. Konta, you have to say, lost her nerve there, it was an incredibly edgy game. 5-5. The players continue despite the weather. And Vondrousova then holds to edge ahead in this match for the first time.
Anisimova wins the first set 7-6 against Barty
As Konta serves for the first set, Barty and Anisimova’s opening act will be decided by a tie-break. Anisimova has the mini-break and is serving at 5-4 ... make that 6-4, two set points. Anisimova needs only one! A quite remarkable effort from 5-0 down.
First set: *Konta 5-4 Vondrousova
Meanwhile Konta is cranking up the pressure over on Simonne Mathieu. Vondrousova holds for 4-3. Konta holds for 5-3. Vondrousova is serving to stay in the set ... and Konta has two set points at 15-40. Konta gets overexcited on the first ... and then nets with an extremely tight shot on the second! Deuce. Advantage Konta, a third set point. But again, Konta can’t settle the set. From there Vondrousova holds. Konta will need to quickly refocus during the changeover - she’ll know she should be a set up - but at least the set will be on her racket as the server in the next game.
Konta v Vondrousova may have been see-sawing so far, but it’s got nothing on the Barty v Anisimova semi-final, where Anisimova has just won her sixth game on the spin from 5-0 down, meaning she’ll serve for the set at 6-5! The conditions are extremely tricky for the players today – not only is rain threatening but it’s so windy out there - and Barty’s effort catches the wind, blowing Anisimova off course. 30-all. 30-40, break point. Deuce. Advantage Barty, a second break point. Deuce ...
First set: Konta 4-2 Vondrousova*
An unenviable task this is for your game-by-gamer, as I frantically flick between the two semi-finals. Just as Barty is broken, Konta breaks Vondrousova straight back to move 3-2 ahead. The British No 1 then backs up the break for 4-2. Having won the first two games, lost the next two games and won the last two games, Konta will be hoping to take charge of this see-sawing first set.
A second hold from Anisimova, and Barty has a second chance to serve out the set at 5-3. A crucial point at 30-all. Will it turn into set point or break point? Break point, when Barty biffs into the net. Her first serve on the break point goes the same way too; she lands the second, before a forehand hit with real depth and purpose brings the error from Anisimova. Deuce. Advantage Anisimova. After misfiring at the start of this match, Anisimova’s missiles – so devastating against Halep yesterday – have found their range. Anisimova breaks and they’re back on serve! Barty leads 5-4.
First set: Konta 2-2 Vondrousova*
On the fifth break point of an attritional fifth game, Konta finally gifts Vondrousova the break with a double fault. Konta, after her flying start, finds herself back on serve.
Meanwhile over on Suzanne Lenglen, Barty is battering Anisimova and is serving for the first set at 5-1 after only 18 minutes, having led 5-0. But Anisimova, having finally got on the board in the previous game, decides she quite fancies helping herself to another game, and breaks Barty to 30. It’s 5-2 Barty.
First set: Konta* 2-1 Vondrousova
Konta cranks up the pressure on Vondrousova by getting to 0-30 on the Czech’s serve. That’s 10 unanswered points for Konta in this semi-final. But Vondrousova suddenly rouses herself into action, and from 0-30 down takes four points on the spin for a dogged hold. She then has Konta under pressure in the next game, 30-40, break point. Konta averts the danger but Vondrousova peels off a winner for a second break point. The Czech clatters into the net. Egalite. Advantage Konta. Egalite. Advantage Vondrousova. Egalite. Advantage Vondrousova. Egalite. Phew ...
Barty is going some too. The crafty and clever Australian No 1, who is the highest seed remaining in the women’s draw at No 8 and therefore the slight favourite for the title ahead of Konta, has charged into a 4-0 lead over Anisimova on Suzanne Lenglen. Anisimova, of course, bumped out the defending champion, Simona Halep, yesterday in the biggest win of her career but the 17-year-old is crashing down to earth today.
First set: Konta 2-0 Vondrousova* (*denotes next server)
Konta dropped only one point on serve in the second set of her superb win over Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals, and she’s continuing as she left off against last year’s runner-up by zipping her way through her first service game, 15-0, 30-0, 40-0, jeu Konta. She’s now won 24 points out of her last 25 on serve.
First set: Konta* 1-0 Vondrousova (*denotes next server)
It will be interesting to see how Konta handles the pressure of being the favourite today. She was the underdog in her two previous slam semis, against Angelique Kerber at the 2016 Australian Open and against Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2017. She shows few signs of any early nerves here as she races to 0-40 on Vondrousova’s serve - the Czech helping Konta out with two double faults - and Konta then bludgeons a backhand down the line to break in the opening game. That’s some statement of intent.
The Konta v Vondrousova head-to head. They’re tied at one win apiece, though Konta did beat the left-hander only a couple of weeks ago on the red dirt in Rome.
Under gloomy skies, Konta and Vondrousova have stepped on to Simonne Mathieu. You wouldn’t blame Konta for feeling aggrieved at being demoted to Roland Garros’s third show court for one of the biggest matches of her career. But I don’t think she’ll let it bother her at all, she seems so at ease at these championships. Meanwhile Ashleigh Barty and Amanda Anisimova are warming up on Suzanne Lenglen. We’ll be focusing on Konta v Vondrousova, but will update you on the other semi-final too.
So, what of Konta? A year ago the British No 1 turned on the “bastard” British press in an awkward press conference after her first-round exit at the French Open. Seven months ago she ended the 2018 season with only two match wins at the slams. Five weeks ago she started the clay-court season down at 47 in the world, having been ranked as high as four after her run to the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2017. A week and a half ago she’d never even won a match at Roland Garros. But here she is in the semi-finals, as the favourite to beat the exciting young Czech Marketa Vondrousova and become Britain’s first female grand slam finalist in 42 years. It’s fair to say she’s rediscovered her joie de vivre in the French capital.
“I have never doubted myself, but I also have accepted I might never get back to the top 10,” says Konta. “I am proud and happy with how I am rolling and keeping the pressure on. This is my third time in a grand slam semi-final. I’d like to go one and two steps further, though. I will look to use the experience I have [of previous semi-finals, at Wimbledon and Melbourne] to deal with the challenges.”
Some pre-match reading:
Friday's order of play
Court Philippe Chatrier
11.50am BST/12.50pm local time
Roger FEDERER (SUI)  v Rafael NADAL (ESP) 
Novak DJOKOVIC (SRB)  v Dominic THIEM (AUT)
Court Suzanne Lenglen
10am BST/11am local time
Ashleigh Barty (AUS)  v Amanda ANISIMOVA (USA
Elise MERTENS (BEL) and Aryna SABALENKA (BLR)  v Timea BABOS (HUN) and Kristina MLADENOVIC (FRA) 
Court Simonne Mathieu
10am BST/11am local time
Johanna KONTA (GBR)  v Marketa VONDROUSOVA (CZE)
Latisha CHAN (TPE) and Ivan DODIG (CRO) v Gabriela DABROWSKI (CAN) and Mate PAVIC (CRO) 
Not before 11.30am BST/12.30pm local time
Kirsten FLIPKENS (BEL) and Johanna LARSSON (Swe)  v Yingying DUAN (CHN) and Saisai ZHENG (CHN)
There’s been plenty of talk since today’s schedule was released about the men stealing the women’s thunder but the greatest concern for the players may be the rain. Tournament organisers are hoping that by starting both women’s semi-finals early and away from Philippe Chatrier, where only the men will take centre stage – a decision the WTA has called “unfair and inappropriate” – they’ve got the best possible chance of completing the matches. But with the threat of pluie, pluie et plus de pluie there’s the very real chance of a chaotic weekend schedule or even a men’s final on Monday.
It would be a shame if the weather or scheduling controversy detracted from four matches that bring into sharp focus the contrasting state of play in the men’s and women’s games. While the men’s semi-finals feature the top four seeds, the owners of 52 grand slam titles and Rafa v Roger Episode 39, Johanna Konta is the only remaining woman to have even played a major semi before in a field that contains two unseeded teenagers and zero slam finals. The British No 1 will surely never get a better chance to claim one of the game’s biggest prizes at a slam where she’d never won a match before last week. The ancien régime still rules in Paris on the men’s side but a revolution is taking place among the women.
Play begins in both women’s semi-finals (if the weather behaves, which it currently is): at 10am BST/11am Paris time.