Novak Djokovic will play Rafael Nadal in the men’s final of the French Open, each with a shot at making tennis history.
Djokovic, the top seed, defeated third-seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 at Roland Garros in Paris yesterday to reach his first French Open title match. The right-hander from Serbia is now one win away from becoming the first man in 43 years to win four Grand Slam titles in a row.
In his way tomorrow stands Nadal, the second seed, who advanced to his seventh final in eight years by beating fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Nadal, 26, who is trying to win a men’s record seventh title at Roland Garros, has reached the title match while having dropped only 35 games, the fewest since Sweden’s Bjorn Borg dropped 31 games in the first six matches in 1980. Nadal tied Borg with his sixth French Open title last year.
“He always plays his best here in Roland Garros, and so I expect to do that as well on Sunday,” Djokovic told reporters. “I know that I have to be consistently playing well on very high level in order to win best-of-five against Nadal here. It’s the ultimate challenge.”
Djokovic, 25, who had never reached the final in Paris before today, is trying to become the first man since Australia’s Rod Laver to hold all four major titles at the same time. Djokovic almost was knocked out in the quarterfinals, saving four match points against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. He came back from two sets down in the fourth round against Andreas Seppi of Italy.
The women’s final will be played today at Roland Garros, between second-seeded Maria Sharapova of Russia and Sara Errani, the 21st seed from Italy. Sharapova is seeking to complete the career Grand Slam of all four majors. Errani won the women’s doubles with Italian partner Roberta Vinci yesterday.
Nadal’s only defeat at Roland Garros was in 2009, when he was beaten in the fourth round by Robin Soderling as he struggled with knee tendinitis. Soderling of Sweden has been off the tour the past 10 months with energy-sapping mononucleosis.
Djokovic has had the upper hand at majors for the past year, beating Nadal in the championship matches at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open and taking the Spaniard’s No. 1 ranking.
This season on clay in Europe, Nadal ended a seven-match losing streak against Djokovic by beating him in Monte Carlo and then Rome.
“I won in Rome and Monte Carlo because my tennis was better against Djokovic,” Nadal said yesterday. “The fact that I’ve defeated Djokovic, that’s true, gave me more confidence.”
Federer, who won the French Open title in 2009 by defeating Soderling, said Nadal is the man to beat.
“I obviously pick Rafa,” said Federer, who has lost four finals against Nadal in Paris. “I think he’s the overwhelming favorite.”
Federer, the winner of a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles, said the pressure will be on Djokovic.
“I was in the same situation twice, for the Grand Slam, the four in a row,” the Swiss said. “But Rafa has won six times here. Of course it would be great to win for a seventh time. But for Novak, he’s never won the tournament, so who knows? Maybe luck will be on his side again. Novak therefore will have more pressure.”