Djokovic Must Top Federer to Extend Bid for Fourth Straight Slam

Novak Djokovic must defeat the only man who has beaten him in a Grand Slam tennis match since 2010 to reach his first French Open final and keep alive his bid for a fourth straight major title.

The top-seeded Djokovic, a Serb who is trying to become the first man since Australian Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in a row, has a semifinal today against 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer of Switzerland.

The third-seeded Federer, who won at Roland Garros in 2009, gave Djokovic his only Grand Slam loss of 2011 in the French Open semifinals last year. Djokovic has won 26 matches at majors since then and holds the Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open titles.

“If my level was one for all of my previous matches, I know that I have to reach a level of 10 to play against him,” Federer said in a news conference. “We’ll see how fit he is. I know I have to play a great match.”

Six-time champion Rafael Nadal plays fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the other men’s semifinal today. Nadal has only lost once at Roland Garros in his career and is trying to become the first man with seven French Open singles titles. He has not dropped a set in this year’s tournament and leads Ferrer 15-4 in their career matches.

The women’s final will be played tomorrow between second-seeded Maria Sharapova of Russia and Sara Errani, the 21st seed from Italy.

Sharapova yesterday beat reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3 to advance to her first French Open final and regain the No. 1 ranking on the WTA tour. Errani, who before this season had never gotten past the third round of a major, beat U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.

Five-Set Matches

Djokovic, 25, has been extended to five sets in each of his past two matches. He came back from a two-sets-to-love deficit in the fourth round against Andreas Seppi of Italy and then saved four match points before winning his quarterfinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

“Novak is really feeling the pressure like he did last year,” seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe said in a news conference yesterday at Roland Garros. “It’s impossible not to feel that because he’s so close. Novak and Roger, both guys have not really gotten their total A-game going.”

Federer, 30, overcame a two-set deficit to beat Juan Martin Del Potro, the ninth seed from Argentina and the U.S. Open champion in 2009. Federer is now tied with Jimmy Connors for the most Grand Slam semifinal spots with 31.

Djokovic, who trails Federer 14-11 in their career matches having won five of their past six meetings, said there is no real favorite in today’s match.

“It’s semifinals, so everything is open,” he said. “For me it’s crucial to be very focused and aggressive from the first moment, because that’s something that you can always expect Roger to have, that control over the opponent from the start. I will try to be out there believing I can win.”