Dominic Thiem is under no illusions as to the colossal task ahead as he prepares for the French Open semi-finals alongside Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

For the first time since the 2012 Australian Open, the top four players in the ATP rankings have reached the semis of a Tour-level event, while Djokovic, Federer and Nadal have not all made the last four of a slam since that same year's tournament at Roland Garros.

Thiem, the 2018 runner-up to Nadal, has now reached this stage in four consecutive editions but never before has he faced such a daunting line-up of semi-final foes, the much-vaunted trio boasting 52 major crowns between them.

The Austrian completed a routine 6-2 6-4 6-2 quarter-final success over Karen Khachanov and faces Djokovic on Friday – a man he has beaten twice in eight attempts – before a potential showdown against Federer or 11-time champion Nadal.

"I mean, it's incredibly difficult to win a grand slam," Thiem told a news conference.

"Especially for us players who didn't have one yet, because if everything goes quite normal, we have to beat two players with 15 or more grand slams. So, I think everybody can imagine how difficult this is.

"But I will step on the court tomorrow, try everything, of course, give everything. I hope it's going to be positive in the end, but the challenge is huge.

"Novak is in very good shape again, probably playing his best tennis of his life. I'm in the semi-finals with maybe the three best players of all time, so everybody can see how tough the way it is for me.

"But for me it's amazing. The surface doesn't matter against them. All of them have won all four slams, so surface doesn't really matter.

"They are so tough on any of the surfaces. I think it never happens in any era of men's tennis that you have three players with 15-plus grand slams. I mean, they are the only three with 15-plus grand slams. That shows it all.

"I'm now in the fourth time here in the semis, and I know now how tough it is to get here, to get that deep in a tournament. And these three, they are doing it since, I don't know, 10, 15 years almost at any grand slam. So that shows what their level is. So they are absolutely amazing."

Remarkably, it has been seven years since Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all reached the semi-finals of the same grand slam.

But the trio have made it to the final four of this year's French Open, ending a run of 27 majors that has seen at least one of the sport's greatest stars absent from the penultimate round.

It is only the 12th time that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have simultaneously made runs to the semi-finals at a grand slam.

We look back at the previous occasions and see who has the best record.

 

2012 French Open
Semi-final: Novak Djokovic [1] bt Roger Federer [3] 6-4 7-5 6-3
Semi-final: Rafael Nadal [2] bt David Ferrer [6] 6-2 6-2 6-1
Final: Rafael Nadal [2] bt Novak Djokovic [1] 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5

2012 Australian Open
Semi-final: Novak Djokovic [1] bt Andy Murray [4] 6-3 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 7-5
Semi-final: Rafael Nadal [2] bt Roger Federer [3] 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-4
Final: Novak Djokovic [1] bt Rafael Nadal [2] 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5

2011 US Open
Semi-final: Novak Djokovic [1] bt Roger Federer [3] 6-7 (7-9) 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5
Semi-final: Rafael Nadal [2] bt Andy Murray [4] 6-4 6-2 3-6 6-2
Final: Novak Djokovic [1] bt Rafael Nadal [2] 6-2 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-1

2011 French Open
Semi-final: Rafael Nadal [1] bt Andy Murray [4] 6-4 7-5 6-4
Semi-final: Roger Federer [3] bt Novak Djokovic [2] 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5)
Final: Rafael Nadal [1] bt Roger Federer [3] 7-5 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-1

2010 US Open
Semi-final: Rafael Nadal [1] bt Mikhail Youzhny [12] 6-2 6-3 6-4
Semi-final: Novak Djokovic [3] bt Roger Federer [2] 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5
Final: Rafael Nadal [1] bt Novak Djokovic [3] 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2

2009 US Open
Semi-final: Roger Federer [1] bt Novak Djokovic [4] 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-5
Semi-final: Juan Martin del Potro [6] bt Rafael Nadal [3] 6-2 6-2 6-2
Final: Juan Martin del Potro [6] bt Roger Federer [1] 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2

2008 US Open
Semi-final: Andy Murray [6] bt Rafael Nadal [1] 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4
Semi-final: Roger Federer [2] bt Novak Djokovic [3] 6-3 5-7 7-5 6-2
Final: Roger Federer [2] bt Andy Murray [6] 6-2 7-5 6-2

2008 French Open
Semi-final: Roger Federer [1] bt Gael Monfils 6-2 5-7 6-3 7-5
Semi-final: Rafael Nadal [2] bt Novak Djokovic [3] 6-4 6-2 7-6 (7-3)
Final: Rafael Nadal [2] bt Roger Federer [1] 6-1 6-3 6-0

2008 Australian Open
Semi-final: Roger Federer [1] bt Novak Djokovic [3] 7-5 6-3 7-6 (7-5)
Semi-final: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bt Rafael Nadal [2] 6-2 6-3 6-2
Final: Novak Djokovic [3] bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-2)

2007 Wimbledon
Semi-final: Roger Federer [1] bt Richard Gasquet [12] 7-5 6-3 6-4
Semi-final: Rafael Nadal [2] bt Novak Djokovic [4] 3-6 6-1 4-1r
Final: Roger Federer [1] bt Rafael Nadal [2] 7-6 (9-7) 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 6-2

2007 French Open
Semi-final: Roger Federer [1] bt Nikolay Davydenko [4] 7-5 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (9-7)
Semi-final: Rafael Nadal [2] bt Novak Djokovic [6] 7-5 6-4 6-2
Final: Rafael Nadal [2] bt Roger Federer [1] 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4

TOTALS

Semi-final exits
Novak Djokovic: 6
Roger Federer: 5
Rafael Nadal: 3

Wins
Rafael Nadal: 5
Novak Djokovic: 3
Roger Federer: 2
Juan Martin del Potro: 1

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have reached the semi-finals of the same grand slam for the first time in seven years at the 2019 French Open.

World number one Djokovic overcame Alexander Zverev 7-5 6-2 6-2 on Thursday to book a last-four clash with Dominic Thiem, while Federer and Nadal will meet on the other side of the draw on Friday.

Not since playing at Roland Garros in 2012 have Djokovic, Nadal and Federer simultaneously made runs to the semi-finals.

This year's French Open also represents the first time that the top four in the rankings have reached the penultimate round since the 2012 Australian Open, when Djokovic (1), Nadal (2), Federer (3) and Andy Murray (4) starred at Melbourne Park.

The packed men's draw at Roland Garros this week is at complete odds with the women's side, where none of the remaining players have ever won a major. Ashleigh Barty (8) is the highest seed left in the women's singles.

Novak Djokovic came through a potentially dangerous French Open quarter-final against Alexander Zverev completely unscathed with a commanding 7-5 6-2 6-2 victory on Thursday.

Top seed Djokovic made it through to the semi-finals for the first time since lifting La Coupe des Mousquetaires in 2016, keeping alive his hopes of joining Rod Laver as the only men to hold all four majors simultaneously at two separate points in their careers.

Zverev, seeded fifth, started positively but despite firing down four aces and 18 winners – Djokovic had zero and 10 respectively – he surrendered the first set with a whimper.

The relentless world number one looked practically impossible to pass as he made just three unforced errors in the second set, while Zverev crumbled at key moments and delivered three straight double faults to fall further adrift.

Djokovic took advantage and eased past the German to set up a meeting with last year's runner-up Dominic Thiem – who won their last meeting in Paris in the 2017 quarter-finals – on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Friday.

Djokovic passed up three break points during the thrilling early exchanges and slipped behind when his backhand landed wide to end a 24-shot rally, offering Zverev a chance to serve out the set from 5-4.

But the 15-time major champion hit straight back and reeled off the next two games with the assistance of Zverev's inconsistent serve.

Djokovic raised the stakes in game two of the next set, sending a sublime passing shot down the line before his opponent again failed to get a serve in at a crunch moment.

The Serbian's defence continued to frustrate Zverev, who surrendered the set after astonishingly producing three double faults in succession.

Zverev managed to remain on serve early in the third but he sent a routine forehand volley into the net to give Djokovic a 4-2 lead, before passing up two openings for an immediate reply.

After saving match point with an ace, Zverev soon saw a slice go long to extend his wait for a first major semi-final.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Novak Djokovic [1] bt Alexander Zverev [5] 7-5 6-2 6-2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic - 24/18
Zverev - 35/40

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic - 1/4
Zverev - 10/8

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic - 6/11
Zverev - 1/8

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Djokovic - 63
Zverev - 69

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Djokovic - 80/51
Zverev - 65/34

TOTAL POINTS
Djokovic - 97
Zverev - 73

Dominic Thiem outclassed Karen Khachanov 6-2 6-4 6-2 on Thursday to reach the French Open semi-finals for a fourth consecutive year.

Thiem, last year's beaten finalist, dominated from start to finish on Court Suzanne-Lenglen and the result never appeared to be in doubt.

A meeting with Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev is next, with the potential of a rematch with Rafael Nadal, last year's champion, in Sunday's final edging nearer by the day.

Having beaten Nadal on the red dirt in four straight seasons, too, Thiem looks as ready as he is ever likely to be to take on the clay king at Roland Garros.

Thiem attacked his opponent from the off and dragged seven minutes out of Khachanov's battling first hold, before breaking as the Russian thrashed wide in his next service game.

And Khachanov then collapsed from 40-0 up to gift Thiem a second break, allowing the Austrian to see out the set in style on serve.

Khachanov stuck with his in-form rival at the start of the second, but Thiem continued to thrill the crowd with his effortless brilliance and eventually led at 5-4 after seizing control of a 20-shot rally.

Again comfortably serving out the set, Thiem found life easy once more in the third as he was handed the decisive advantage by Khachanov's sloppy double fault.

The fourth seed cruised to the finish without facing a single break point as he proved a sizeable step too far for Khachanov, who had been enjoying his best run at a grand slam.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Dominic Thiem [4] bt Karen Khachanov [10] 6-2 6-4 6-2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Thiem - 29/12
Khachanov - 17/37

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Thiem - 3/3
Khachanov - 5/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Thiem - 5/8
Khachanov - 0/0

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Thiem - 63
Khachanov - 67

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Thiem - 80/62
Khachanov - 61/44

TOTAL POINTS
Thiem - 91
Khachanov - 66

French Open tournament director Guy Forget did not rule out playing semi-finals across three courts or moving a final to Monday if further rain delays strike on Friday.

Play was washed out on Wednesday before any of the scheduled quarter-finals – which would have seen Simona Halep and Novak Djokovic in action – were able to get under way at Roland Garros.

The women's semi-finals were consequently pushed back in line with the men's on Friday, when more inclement weather is forecast, though Forget suggested the highly anticipated match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will be the first match to take place.

In view of a potential scheduling pile-up, Forget acknowledged the solutions available are not "ideal" and pointed to the fact Nadal and Djokovic finished their 2012 final on a Monday following rain interruptions.

"The schedule of bad weather on Friday we know is a possibility. I just left the room to see the different options that we have. None of them are ideal, because we have the ladies' and the men's to be played," said Forget.

"We could technically play on three courts, but at one point it's a call we're going to have to make. We have the match with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, which is the one that a lot of people are waiting for.

"But then, after that, we have two big finals, the women's and the men's, and we want to make the best we can so they can be played on time.

"The weather for [Thursday] seems to be Ok. So we will be able to move on with that schedule.

"If we achieve that, it's a good start. Then we will worry about Friday after that, but Friday is kind of complicated already. If you have to play the men's [semi-finals] at the same time, that's when we thought about playing on three courts."

On the possibility of having the men's semi-finals on Court Philippe-Chatrier and the women's on Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Friday, Forget said: "We are thinking about this option. And also why not have them play on a third court? We know that [Court] Simonne-Mathieu is a court that is very successful if things were to become worse.

"The ideal thing would be for both players to have the same recovery time. And the best way to get this result is for them to play their matches at the same time.

"If there is a rain interruption, then they are interrupted at the same time. In this way, there will be no player finishing the match 24 hours before the other.

"We saw that historically we can play men's finals on Monday. We remember the final between Djokovic and Nadal. We can think of the same thing for the women in terms of a disaster scenario."

Play at the French Open was cancelled due to bad weather on Wednesday, but Omnisport's reporter was still hard at work during the disappointing delays.

There was no Novak Djokovic or Simona Halep in sight, but Tom Webber still managed to provide an update from his daily diary in Paris.

 

SINGING IN THE RAIN

It rained for a second straight day in Paris, and it was a bit worse than the sudden downpour that forced Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal off court for an hour on Tuesday.

There was only one kind of soaking for the masses that arrived at Roland Garros, and it didn't involve taking in the atmosphere.

Hordes of drenched ticket-holders crowded under any shelter possible as they waited for the torrents to abate.

At least they had some form of entertainment provided by groups of musicians dotted around the grounds.

 

CLIMATE CONCERNS

Wednesday was Sustainable Development Day at Roland Garros, and a video including messages from Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Kristina Mladenovic urged watchers to help "win the race against climate change".

Of course, it's a salient topic, but the tournament organisers may well have been wishing for a change in the climate to avoid cancelling all the matches!

 

BARMY BAHRAMI

There was at least some tennis for those who arrived early enough, and Mansour Bahrami delighted one fan in particular during his over-45 legends match on the beautiful Court Simonne-Mathieu.

He and partner Fabrice Santoro took the first set against Sergi Bruguera and Goran Ivanisevic and Bahrami - who spent a lot of time running around with five tennis balls in his left hand - celebrated getting off the mark in the second by posing for a selfie for a spectator in the front row.

Unsurprisingly the match wasn't being taken too seriously, with Bruguera using his foot and Ivanisevic adding a header to a rally at the net!

There was no play at the French Open on Wednesday due to bad weather.

Reigning champion Simona Halep and world number one Novak Djokovic were due to take to Court Philippe-Chatrier, but woeful conditions in Paris led to tournament organisers announcing the holding over of four quarter-final matches.

The decision was taken after persistent rain had seen Halep's clash with Amanda Anisimova and the meeting of Madison Keys and Ashleigh Barty have their start times pushed backed by two-and-a-half hours.

Djokovic was scheduled to face Alexander Zverev second on Chatrier, while Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov made up the other last-eight encounter.

The French Tennis Federation offered full refunds to spectators and granted them free entry to the grounds on Thursday.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will renew one of the greatest rivalries in tennis when they meet in the French Open semi-finals on Friday.

Federer and Nadal have won a combined 37 major titles between them - 11 of the Spaniard's 17 have been secured at Roland Garros - and came through rain-interrupted quarter-finals on Tuesday to set up a tantalising reunion.

It will be their 39th official meeting and first in 20 months, with Nadal holding a 23-15 advantage overall and a 9-3 lead against his 37-year-old counterpart at majors.

Five of their grand slam encounters have taken place in Paris, and we have taken a look back at them.

 

2005 semi-final: Nadal [4] bt. Federer [1] 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-3

An elbow injury kept Nadal out of Roland Garros in 2003 and an ankle fracture sidelined him the following year, but the Spaniard, then just 19, certainly made his mark when he debuted in Paris.

By the time he went up against Federer he had already claimed five titles and 22 match wins on clay in the year. The Swiss struggled from the off on Court Philippe-Chatrier and dropped his serve four times in the opening set.

Nadal sent a backhand into the net as the world number one got back on level terms, before producing crushing groundstrokes to become the youngest French Open winner since Michael Chang in 1989.

It was the start of his incredible love affair with La Coupe des Mousquetaires.

 

2006 final: Nadal [2] bt. Federer [1] 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-4)

Federer was handed his first defeat in a grand slam final by Nadal on his maiden appearance in the showpiece at Roland Garros.

The Swiss, who went into the match having triumphed at each of the last three majors, started impressively as he raced through the opening set, but his opponent came roaring back.

Nadal had already beaten Federer en route to titles in Dubai, Monte Carlo and Rome that year and the tide turned when he finally converted a break point at the seventh attempt to edge ahead in the second set.

Federer committed far too many unforced errors and the chance to complete the career Grand Slam evaporated when Nadal took four straight points in a tie-break and clinched glory with a brilliant forehand.

 

2007 final: Nadal [2] bt. Federer [1] 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4

Federer beat Nadal on clay for the first time to take the title in Hamburg in the build-up to the French Open, but the Spaniard denied him once again in Paris.

The Swiss wasted 10 break points and paid the price in the opening set, before breaking for a 4-3 lead in the second and consolidating from 40-15 down as he went on to restore parity.

Nadal continued to improve as the match went on, though, and the writing was on the wall when he sent a drop shot back across and Federer buried a forehand into the net to drop serve.

The Spaniard convincingly finished the job by serving out to love and collapsed to the ground before venturing into the stands to celebrate with his family.

 

2008 final: Nadal [2] bt. Federer [1] 6-1 6-3 6-0

With his most convincing victory over Federer, Nadal matched Bjorn Borg's feat from 1981 of winning the French Open for a fourth year in succession.

Federer was broken at the start of each set as he failed to contain the rampant 'King of Clay', who became just the seventh man – and first since Federer at the 2007 Australian Open – to win a grand slam without dropping a set.

The Swiss was bagelled at a major for the first time in almost nine years as Nadal closed out an astonishing victory in just one hour and 48 minutes to retain his 100 per cent record at Roland Garros.

He then added the Wimbledon title to end Federer's record-breaking 237-week stay at the top of the rankings.

 

2011 final: Nadal [1] bt. Federer [3] 7-5 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-1

Nadal's winning streak at the French Open was ended at 31 matches in a surprise fourth-round defeat to Robin Soderling in 2009, one Federer took full advantage of to complete the career Grand Slam at long last.

The Spaniard had missed a chance to hold all four majors at once with a quarter-final loss at the 2011 Australian Open, but he claimed a record-equalling sixth title at Roland Garros by seeing off Federer once again.

Having crumbled in their previous encounters, Federer, who missed a drop shot on set point in the opener, displayed his tremendous character by fighting back from a break down in the third set.

Nadal failed to score a point behind his own serve before the Swiss struck again and closed out the third set, but he could not maintain his level and a long forehand saw Nadal drop to his knees in celebration of another success over his great rival.

It was the second in a record-breaking run of five straight French Open titles for Nadal.

Stan Wawrinka is convinced his future in tennis is bright after battling back from a major knee problem to reassert himself as a grand slam contender.

At the age of 34, Wawrinka believes his days as a leading player on the ATP Tour can be sustained for some time yet, and he heads to Wimbledon re-energised and full of self-confidence.

There were many who doubted whether Wawrinka would return to the top echelons of the men's game after he struggled through the early months of 2018, looking like a player for whom surgery had taken a major toll.

His improvement has been steady though, to the point where he pushed his fellow Swiss Roger Federer hard over four sets at Roland Garros on Tuesday.

Federer fought his way through two tie-breaks on his way to victory and a place in the French Open semi-finals, where Rafael Nadal awaits, but Wawrinka knew it had been a tight contest that could have gone either way.

Asked whether his run to the second week in Paris showed he was heading back to peak form, Wawrinka said in a media conference: "Yeah, it maybe confirmed to you guys that I can still beat some top guys."

He added: "Today it was a tough match. I lost it against the best player ever to play this sport. I'm more positive than sad or disappointed with the result, because I know everything I have done to come back to that level. I know also how I left here last year when down in the ranking, like, 260 or something. [Next week] I'm going to be back in the top 20.

"I'm happy with that. I think it showed that I have done the right things, and I'm happy to keep working and keep playing some big matches."

Wawrinka can look to 37-year-old Federer as an example of a player who has worked diligently not only on his game but his physicality and health, allowing him to be competitive long after others of his peer group have retired.

"As long as I enjoy doing what I'm doing, as long as I can play well, as long as I can push and see that I can have some shot to beat the top players, I'm probably gonna keep playing," Wawrinka said.

"But how long it's gonna be, I have no idea.

"I'm going to rest a little bit, and then I have to start on grass right away. I plan on playing Stuttgart, Queen's, Wimbledon."

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer did not disappoint fans at the French Open as they won their quarter-final meetings on Tuesday.

The two icons of the modern era will battle it out for a place in the men's singles final on Friday, while Johanna Konta and Marketa Vondrousova will meet 24 hours earlier after their straight-sets triumphs over Sloane Stephens and Petra Martic respectively.

Omnisport's man on the ground, Tom Webber, was at Roland Garros for all the action and provides another update from his daily diary.

 

PREPARATION IS KEY

Get to the grounds early enough and you could get a chance to watch your favourite superstar, a legend from past years or a future prodigy having a hit on one of the outside courts.

However, it's not just players that put in the work during the morning hours.

The ballkids were out warming up en masse on Tuesday and, with the way they sprint across the clay and roll powerful passes along the floor to one another, it's unsurprising they take their preparation seriously.

That and the fact a Roland Garros employee tells them to!

 

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS

Omnisport's reporter made a dash for the media centre after hearing a roll of thunder while sat on the roofless Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

The rain mostly held off until that journey was complete, but then the heavens opened.

Fortunately the downpour did not last too long and the players were able to return after just over an hour, with Federer and Nadal quickly wrapping up their matches.

 

YOU CAN PLAY ON CHATRIER (SORT OF)

If getting caught in the rain puts you off playing tennis, maybe having a go in virtual reality is for you.

A booth outside Court Philippe-Chatrier offers an opportunity to experience taking on a friend on Roland Garros' main stage.

WAWRINKA ON GOOD FORM

Not only did he impress on the court in his defeat against Federer, Wawrinka drew plenty of laughs as he fronted the media in good spirits.

When one reporter suggested he had a "year off" following his two knee surgeries in August 2017, the Swiss responded lightheartedly.

"Trust me, you don't rest when you are injured. You don't go on holiday by the beach and enjoy some caipirinha. You don't do that," laughed Wawrinka.

When the amount of times he has played Federer - the 37-year-old having taken a 23-3 record in their head to head - was then mentioned, he joked it was "too many times".

Wawrinka intends to watch Federer take on Nadal if he gets the chance. His thoughts on the outcome?

"I cannot see the future, my friend," he said, to chuckles across the interview room.

Roger Federer reiterated that one of his motivations for returning to clay was to face Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard dismissed the suggestion.

Federer and Nadal are two of the all-time greats – they boast an astonishing 37 grand slam titles between them – and will do battle in a highly anticipated semi-final at the French Open on Friday.

The Swiss icon is playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, having sat out the following year due to knee and back issues before opting to focus his attention on grass and hard surfaces.

After completing a four-set victory over Stan Wawrinka in an enthralling quarter-final, Federer said he was relishing the chance to take on the 'King of Clay' at a place where his rival has was won 11 of his 17 major crowns.

Speaking in an on-court interview, Federer said: "The next opponent is pretty good. He knows how to play on clay, unfortunately ... if I came back on clay, it's also perhaps to play Rafa. Here it is. I have the match."

When asked if those comments gave him any extra motivation, Nadal claimed there was no truth to the statement.

"That's not true. He didn't say that. He came back on clay because he's a player who is comprehensive, who plays well on all surfaces. And on clay he has good chances of winning," said Nadal.

"One thing is that he feels physically ready. He's coming back because he wants to do so. And if he feels in good shape physically he should not leave out a main part of the season. That's his main reason.

"But of course, it's going to be a very special match for him, for me, and so it's always been special matches … he will be ready to give his best, and I will be there, too.

"We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other, so it's another episode and I'm happy and excited for that. It will be special moment, and let's try to be ready for it."

After that response was paraphrased and put to him, Federer said: "Like against any player, there is always a chance. Otherwise nobody will be in the stadium to watch because everybody already knows the result in advance.

"For me to get to Rafa is not simple … I'm very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he's that strong and he will be there.

"I knew that when I signed up for the clay that hopefully that's going to happen. If I would have had a different mindset to avoid him, then I should not have played the clay.

"I think that mindset has helped me to play so well so far this tournament."

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are both pleased to see Andy Murray preparing for a return to action, although they always believed a comeback was possible.

Former world number one Murray announced at the Australian Open that he planned to retire at Wimbledon later this year and may not even feature again beyond Melbourne.

His final match at the year's first grand slam saw the three-time major champion presented with well-wishing messages from an array of stars - including Nadal and Federer.

But after a resurfacing operation left his hip pain-free, Murray will play doubles at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen's Club later this month.

Nadal, speaking after reaching the French Open semi-finals, suggested Murray had made a premature call in January but was delighted by his return.

"Being honest, for me, it was a little bit surprising that he announced [his retirement] that quick," the 11-time Roland Garros champion said.

"So I always thought that he would find a way to try to be back, because he is still young and still very passionate about the game. I'm happy to see that he is going to play again.

"That's great news - first, for him and for his team and family, and then for the Tour itself and then for the fans.

"It is good for the world of tennis. I am happy for it, and especially happy for him."

Federer, who will play Nadal in the last four in Paris, echoed the Spaniard's sentiments, also explaining why he had paid tribute to Murray in Australia.

"The Australian Open was early in the year and he's coming back for doubles," he said. "So from that standpoint, he knows, only he knows [about his return].

"We were more told that, from what I heard in the press conference, this could be it, so, 'can you please make a message?' OK, fine, we'll do a message. But we were hoping that this message is not actually real.

"For Andy, as well, when I saw him after his match against [Roberto] Bautista Agut, I also had just won my match. I saw him in the locker room, and I was like, 'so what's up? Are you really retiring?'

"He didn't know. Clearly there was a misunderstanding or he wasn't sure yet.

"I just think it was an emotional moment and he was just at a breaking point where he realised 'I cannot keep playing any more'.

"I have been there - like at Wimbledon, for instance, in 2016 - I realised I could not keep doing what I'm doing like this. It's just not healthy any more. He was in that moment and it just hit him.

"After we realised he wasn't sure, we were all hoping he would come back. And from what I'm hearing, there are two ways to look at it.

"It's number one for his health, and we want Andy to be healthy, more so than being a tennis player. But if he can play tennis on top of it, that's a super bonus.

"And I think all of us top guys would be thrilled to see him back on the Tour."

Roger Federer continued his impressive French Open return by overcoming resilient Swiss counterpart Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 in a thoroughly entertaining quarter-final on Tuesday.

In a battle between close friends who displayed incredible shot-making throughout, it was 37-year-old Federer, making his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, who won the rain-interrupted encounter to set up a mouth-watering semi-final against long-time rival and 11-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal.

In the process, the world number three became the oldest man to reach the last four in Paris in the Open era since the 40-year-old Pancho Gonzales in 1968.

Wawrinka, who spent five hours on court in a dramatic win over Stefanos Tsitsipas last time out, beat Federer at this stage en route to claiming the title in 2015, but he could not repeat the feat as his best grand slam display since returning from a pair of left knee operations 22 months ago ended.

The three-time major winner became the first player at Roland Garros this year to take a set off Federer, the 37-year-old converting just two of the 18 break points that came his way.

However, Federer, who came back from a break down in the third set, comfortably finished off the job after a delay of over an hour due to a storm when it was 3-3 in the fourth.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal sent a clear message to his French Open rivals as he dismantled Kei Nishikori to seal a semi-final showdown with Roger Federer.

Chasing his 12th title in Paris, the world number two made ludicrously light work of the usually dangerous Nishikori, who appeared to be nursing an injury at the end of the second set.

Nadal showed no mercy as he went after his opponent time and again for his most impressive, dominant win of the tournament so far.

A rain delay frustrated Nadal in the third set, yet he breezed through 6-1 6-1 6-3 when play restarted.

Federer awaits Nadal in the last four after seeing off compatriot Stan Wawrinka, but even he is likely to fear the favourite in this form.

Nadal was relentless from the off and broke Nishikori in his opening service game before applying further pressure and seeing the Japanese send a tired backhand into the net.

A highly motivated Nadal served out the opener inside 35 minutes and did not let his energy levels drop in the opening game of the second, breaking to love thanks to Nishikori's sloppiness.

There was finally a response as Nishikori went on the offensive to forge a couple of opportunities of his own and break back, only to again lash into the net to slip behind once more.

A bemused Nishikori simply could not live with Nadal, the struggling seventh seed twice more dropping serve before going long to conclude another swift set.

Having called his trainer before returning to the court, Nishikori created and squandered four break points at the start of the third as any hope of taking this match the distance soon dissipated.

Although Nishikori battled back to hold the next game, only the threat of rain looked like it might hinder Nadal's progress.

The seemingly decisive break arrived with a Nishikori mishit and Nadal, aware of the looming grey clouds, raced towards the finish, only to be frustrated as the weather saw play suspended.

An hour-long delay could not save Nishikori, though, as his outstanding opponent quickly wrapped up victory.

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Rafael Nadal [2] bt Kei Nishikori [7] 6-1 6-1 6-3

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal - 29/22
Nishikori - 17/30

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal - 3/3
Nishikori - 2/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal - 7/11
Nishikori - 1/5

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal - 72
Nishikori - 72

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal - 76/52
Nishikori - 44/50

TOTAL POINTS
Nadal - 88
Nishikori - 55

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