Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to contest French Open final

 

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will face each other in a record fourth straight grand slam final after the world number one gained revenge for last year's semi-final defeat by Roger Federer with a 6-4 7-5 6-3 victory at Roland Garros this evening.

Never before have the same two men contested all the major finals in succession, but it would have been a surprise if it was any other way, although Federer certainly had his chances in a wind-affected match.

More history will be on the line on Sunday, with Nadal, who thrashed David Ferrer 6-2 6-2 6-1, going for a record seventh French Open title while Djokovic is bidding to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four titles at once.

Djokovic and Federer faced off in a classic semi-final last year, which the Swiss player won to leave his rival one short of tying John McEnroe's record start to a season of 42 straight victories.

Neither player came into the match playing at anything like the same level - Djokovic surviving two five-setters against Andreas Seppi and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his last two matches and Federer fighting back from two sets down to defeat Juan Martin Del Potro.

The quality of this match certainly did not rival that one, but it was not short on drama, particularly in a second set full of twists and turns.

Federer had made the first move in the opener, breaking in the fifth game with a thumping forehand winner, but he gave the advantage straight back and then dropped his serve to hand Djokovic the set.

Federer came out firing at the start of the second, breaking Djokovic from 40-0 up in the opening game, including winning a stunning 36-shot rally that had the crowd on their feet.

The third seed looked in total control when he broke again for 3-0 but he promptly gave his serve away and from there things got tight.

He had three chances to move 5-2 ahead but he could not take them, although Djokovic was slightly fortunate on one point that a line call was overruled.

The Serb then levelled at 4-4 only for Federer to break for the third time in the set with two superb backhands down the line.

But he had looked shaky on serve all match and it was no real surprise when Djokovic broke again, or that the world number one made it three games in a row to win the set.

And there was no way back for Federer from there, with Djokovic breaking in the sixth game of the decider and clinching victory on his second match point.

An unforced error count of 46 from Federer compared to 17 from his opponent told the story, and Djokovic will now attempt to do to Nadal in Paris what he has done in London, New York and Melbourne, although this would certainly be the best of the lot.

Earlier, the Spaniard put on an absolute masterclass against Ferrer, who simply could do nothing about the relentless power and accuracy of his opponent.

Nadal won 19 of the last 22 points in the opening set and even a break in the second for a heavy shower did nothing to put the 26-year-old off his rhythm as he clinched victory in an hour and 46 minutes.

The Spaniard goes into Sunday's final having lost his serve only once, not dropped a set and lost just 35 games - the least since Bjorn Borg dropped 27 in 1978 on his way to the final.

Nadal has cut a happy and relaxed figure all tournament, and he declared today's performance his best yet - although not perfect.

He said: "It was one of my best matches on this court. I think I played a really solid match with not easy conditions out there, a lot of wind.

"In my opinion I did almost everything right, because my serve worked very well, my backhand was the best day so far today. The forehand, I have hit well the forehand all tournament. Today wasn't an exception.

"I am very happy, but sorry for David. He deserved it. He's a great fighter. He's always there week after week.

"It's a very important victory for me, and to win with this result against one of the best players of the moment, one of the best players of the world, is because I did very well. If not, it is impossible to win against David like this.

"I don't believe in perfection. I really don't like to talk about perfection, because that, in my opinion, doesn't exist. You can always play better."

Ferrer was content with his performances over the tournament as a whole and felt there was little he could have done to change the outcome today.

The 30-year-old 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.

"I'm very happy with my game all tournament. Maybe today was not the best match of these two weeks, but it's my first semi-final at Roland Garros."

PA

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