Novak Djokovic moved one win away from becoming the first man since 1969 to win four Grand Slam tennis titles in a row by beating Roger Federer at the French Open. He’ll play six-time champion Rafael Nadal in the final.
The top-ranked Serb beat the 16-time major singles champion from Switzerland, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 on the main Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros in Paris. Nadal has won 18 of the 32 times they’ve played.
“I’m happy with my game today,” Djokovic said in a news conference after the semifinal. “This was a very important moment for me. It’s the first time I’m going to be with him in the finals here in Paris. I hope I’m going to play a good match again, and that the level I’ll play will be high.”
Djokovic, 25, is trying to become the first man since Australian 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 to love down in his fourth-round match against Andreas Seppi of Italy.
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 27 matches at majors since then, taking the titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open and taking the No. 1 spot from Nadal.
Earlier today, Rafael Nadal told reporters he’d played “one of my best matches in this court,” after he eased past fellow Spaniard David Ferrer to reach the final in Paris without losing a set.
Nadal beat Ferrer, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in windy conditions. The Spaniard has lost 35 games on the way to the final, the fewest since Sweden’s Bjorn Borg dropped 31 games in the first six matches in 1980.
“In my opinion I did almost everything right, because my serve worked very well, changing directions,” said Nadal, who has only dropped his serve once in the tournament. “My backhand was the best day so far today. I hit the forehand well during the whole tournament. Today wasn’t an exception.”
Throughout the tournament, the Spaniard has been able to rely on his serve, winning the point off his first serve 79 percent of the time, the most of the four semifinalists.
The match between Federer and Djokovic was delayed half an hour because of rain. After swapping service breaks at 2-2 as the wind blew around the court, play was back on serve until the 10th game. Serving to stay in the first set at 4-5 down, Federer handed Djokovic the set as he made three forehand errors.
The crowd shouted “Roger, Roger,” as Federer broke Djokovic’s serve in the opening game of the second set, which included a 36-shot rally that featured a between-the-legs shot by the Serb that the Swiss won with a volley. Federer went up a double break for 3-0 and served for the set at 5-4, only to let Djokovic back into the match with a string of unforced errors. Djokovic took a two-sets-to-love lead as Federer hit a forehand long, his 35th error.
In the third set, the 30-year-old Federer continued to struggle with the wind, dropping serve with a forehand into the net at 2-3 down. Serving for his first French Open final at 5-3, Djokovic won the match with a service winner.
“I thought he played well, under tough conditions,” said Federer, who made 46 unforced errors, 29 more than the Serb. “I wasn’t able to sustain maybe a solid enough game today, I guess. That’s about it.”
After tying Borg last year with a sixth title, Nadal has been overshadowed by Djokovic. The Serb beat the 26-year-old Nadal in the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and outlasted him in a championship match that took almost six hours at the Australian Open at the start of the year.
Nadal was only tested in the beginning of his semifinal, saving two break points in the fourth game. Ferrer lost his serve in the next game at love as Nadal outplayed the 30-year-old from the back of the court with heavy top spin shots. The second-ranked player took the set, racing through the next four games.
Watched by rapper Jay-Z and former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, Nadal broke serve in the opening game of the second set. At 1-1, the defending champion slipped, played a drop shot while seated on the clay, then lobbed the ball over the head of Ferrer, who missed a forehand.
Nadal was unfazed by a 55-minute rain delay at 6-2, 4-1. Serving at 5-2, the crowd gasped as he set up two set points with a running forehand winner struck from the back of the court. He took the second set with another forehand. Nadal quickly won the third set and the match to move to his seventh Roland Garros final in eight years.
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. The Swede, whose picture adorns a wall in the media center at Roland Garros, has been off the tour the past 10 months with energy-sapping mononucleosis.
The women’s final will be played tomorrow between second-seeded Maria Sharapova of Russia and Sara Errani, the 21st seed. Sharapova is seeking to complete the career Grand Slam of all four majors.
Errani and fellow Italian Roberta Vinci today won the women’s doubles title, beating the Russian pair of Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.