'Almost perfect' Nadal threatens Djokovic's hopes of history

Spaniard trounces Ferrer as world No 1 is too strong for Federer and closes on all four Slam titles at once

Roland Garros

At this rate they might just as well cancel the other 126 men's singles matches in future and go straight to the final. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the world's two best players, will become the first men to contest four successive Grand Slam finals when they meet here tomorrow in the climax to the French Open.

The gap between the two men and their nearest rivals was emphasised by the ease of their semi-final victories yesterday. Djokovic beat Roger Federer 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 to avenge the defeat by the Swiss that ended his 43-match winning run at the same stage of this tournament last year, while Nadal needed just an hour and 46 minutes to trounce David Ferrer 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Federer and Ferrer were the first pair of thirty-something men to make the semi-finals at a Grand Slam tournament for nine years, but had no answer to the excellence of the 25-year-old Serb and the 26-year-old Spaniard.

If there was local disappointment at Federer not reaching his sixth final here – the Parisians love the French-speaking former world No 1 for all his style and elegance – it will be the dream finale for the sport at large. While Nadal, who shares the record of six French Open titles with Bjorn Borg, will be hoping to make the record his own, Djokovic needs victory to become the first man for 43 years – and only the third ever after Don Budge and Rod Laver – to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time. It will be his first appearance in the final here.

The meeting of Djokovic and Federer had been eagerly awaited but was an anti-climax. It matched the weather on another damp and cold day which featured two rain delays. There were occasional sunny interludes when both men played at their best, but most of the exchanges were too one-sided to brighten a grey afternoon.

Federer, who has not won a Grand Slam title for two and a half years, showed brief flashes of his old self, but made 46 unforced errors to Djokovic's 17 as the Serb kept him under relentless pressure. Djokovic, who has become the best returner in the game, broke serve seven times.

The only times when Federer looked threatening were at the start of the first and second sets. In the first he broke to lead 3-2, only for Djokovic to break back immediately, and in the second he broke twice to lead 3-0. The Swiss won one superb 36-shot rally with a sublime drop shot-lob-volley combination, but Djokovic went on to break four times to take the set. There was an inevitability about the third set, which Djokovic won with a single break in the sixth game.

While Federer had arrived on Court Philippe Chatrier to cheers and applause, there had been a muted greeting for Djokovic and even some booing, for reasons best known to the idiosyncratic French crowd, who are never slow to give expression to their bias. Federer's winners were often greeted with loud acclaim, while Djokovic's sometimes met with near silence. At least the world No 1 raised a cheer when he conducted his post-match interview on the court in broken French.

"Today was the best match of 2012 Roland Garros for me, so I've raised my game when I needed to," Djokovic said. "I played really well when it was most important to do so."

Federer, who was not helped by the slow conditions, said he had struggled to keep the ball in play. "I thought he played well under tough conditions," the Swiss said. "I wasn't able to sustain a solid enough game today."

The first semi-final had featured Spain's two best clay-court players, but the contest was about as even as a bullfight. Nadal was at his magnificent best, while Ferrer, who had been too good for Andy Murray in the quarter-finals, looked a beaten man from the moment he was broken in the fifth game after a tightly contested opening.

We have become so accustomed to Nadal dominating here that it is easy to take the world No 2's extraordinary supremacy for granted. He has won 51 of his 52 matches at Roland Garros and this is the fourth time in the last six years that he has reached the final without dropping a set. In his six matches so far he has lost just 35 games – six fewer than his previous best year in 2008.

Having made Nadal save two break points in his second service game, Ferrer did not force another in the whole match. Nadal was soon in such command that he was even winning points while sitting down. In one rally early in the second set the world No 2 fell on his backside, yet still played a beautifully judged drop shot and went on to win the point.

With Nadal leading 4-1 in the second set, rain forced the players off the court. The match resumed 55 minutes later, but the pattern remained unchanged as Nadal served out to take the second set. The end was mercifully swift, Nadal smacking an inside out forehand winner to break serve for the seventh time.

Nadal said it had been one of his best performances ever on these courts. "I've been playing well since the beginning of the season," he said. "I am having an almost perfect clay-court season, and we'll see what will happen in the final. It's going to be a very tough match. I am very happy, but sorry for David. He's a great fighter. He's always there week after week.

Ferrer said: "I tried to do my best, but when the opponent was better than me, I can't do anything. He played very good all the time, I didn't have any chance."

Djokovic regards Nadal as the favourite, but the Spaniard will be aware that he would create an unwelcome piece of history if he were to lose in the final for a record fourth Grand Slam tournament in succession. At least he has managed to break Djokovic's hold on him during the current-clay court season by beating him in Monte Carlo and Rome, having earlier lost to the Serb in seven successive finals.

However, Djokovic's confidence is understandably sky-high. "I believe I'm at the peak of my career," he said. "I've been playing the best tennis of my life in the last year and a half, and I should use that to boost my confidence and try to get my hands on title. Why not?"

Stats magic

49 Career titles won by Rafa Nadal ahead of tomorrow's final

5 Tomorrow will be the fifth consecutive Slam final contested by Nadal

4 Nadal and Djokovic will contest their fourth straight Grand Slam final

43 Djokovic is trying to become the first man in 43 years to hold all four Slam titles at the same time.

28 Twenty eight of the last 29 Slams have gone to Nadal, Djokovic or Federer

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam