World No2 Nadal had not yet faced a seed, though in dropping a set to Nick Kyrgios in the second round, it showed there were still very dangerous men in his quarter—but he would not have to tackle the man who played him in the last two Roland Garros finals, No5 Dominic Thiem, nor former Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic.
World No3 Roger Federer, in contrast, would face all his scheduled seeds, including No8 Kei Nishikori, and then his career’s most formidable rival, world No2 Nadal.
In his first match, against the tall power-house 22-year-old Lloyd Harris, Federer lost the opening set, and did so again against Nishikori. Yet by the semi-finals, he had spent less time on court than any of the last four men.
However, that quick and efficient progress was sure to change when Federer met Nadal. Three times they had met at Wimbledon, every time in the final from 2006 to 2008, and each was a battle royal.