Even before the tournament began, headlines had spread like wildfire that this was going to be the last Roland Garros for the legendary Roger Federer. Federer would have wanted to leave with fond memories from France and he did exactly that by probably hitting the shot of the tournament.
Playing in the knockout stages of the French Open against Rafael Nadal would be a lost cause for anyone. And approaching the semi-final match as the underdog, the least Federer could do was win moments from the epic encounter if not the match.
Playing on clay, which demands more leg work and power than any other surface, leaves very little space for subtlety and technique - probably a huge reason why Federer could win the Grand Slam only once. And while all possible tricks in his book failed to get the better of Nadal, he did manage to leave a Federer-esque element in the match that would be present whenever the highlights are shown in the future.
It was a treat for the Federer fans as well who, of late, haven’t been witness to the magic the player once used to weave. The incident happened when there was no hope left of a comeback with Nadal leading 5-1 in the third set and Federer struggling to hold his serve. His serve was returned with a robust forehand passing shot and Federer looked out of position to reach the ball.
However, the Swiss ace reached it anyhow and managed to get a backhand slice almost at the same time as the ball dropped on his court. The shot created an unparalleled backspin as it stayed low to just jump over the net. Nadal, who rarely gives up on any rally, realized early that there was no way he was getting there and started making his way back to his seat.