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French Open: Nadal, Djokovic to meet in men's final

Published June 8, 2012 11:35 am

Tennis • Grand Slam streak, record for French Open titles on the line.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Paris • For the third straight time in a Grand Slam final, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet.

That Nadal made it by winning his French Open semifinal in a breeze against David Ferrer was no shock.

That Djokovic got there after facing only a wisp of a challenge from Roger Federer, well, that came as a bigger surprise.

The top two players each won in straight sets Friday — second-seeded Nadal in a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 whitewashing of sixth-seeded Ferrer and top-seeded Djokovic in a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 win over third-seeded Federer that didn't feel that close.

The final is Sunday and one of these men will make history: Either Nadal will win his seventh French Open to break the record he now shares with Bjorn Borg, or Djokovic will become the first man in 43 years to win four straight Grand Slam tournaments.

And while they'll have trouble putting on a better show than their last Grand Slam final — the nearly six-hour, five-set drama Djokovic won at the Australian Open — it shouldn't be hard to stage a more competitive day of tennis than what happened in the semifinals.

"I hope we'll play a shorter match because playing six hours in Australia was very long," Djokovic said. "But it was a great match. I think it was the most beautiful match of my life, of my career. I look forward to another beautiful match."

The key stat in Djokovic's win was Federer's 46 unforced errors to 17 for Djokovic. Federer, a 16-time major championship winner, struggled with the conditions on yet another windy day at Roland Garros as well as the pressure of having to go for big shots to get anything past his top-seeded Serbian opponent.

Serving to stay in the first set, Federer missed four forehands over the span of five points en route to the loss.

He came out in the second set and overcame a love-40 deficit in the first game, including swatting away a volley winner after Djokovic chased down a lob and hit it between his legs as part of a 38-shot rally that wound up as the best point of the match.

Federer broke Djokovic again for a 3-0 lead and it appeared a possible repeat of last year's thrilling U.S. Open semifinal, in which Djokovic saved two match points to win a five-setter, might be in store.

Instead, Djokovic won 13 of the next 18 games to avenge his last defeat in a Grand Slam tournament — a four-set loss to Federer in Paris last year at the same stage of the French Open.

Djokovic has won 27 straight since, matching Federer for second place on the Open era list. Another win would give Djokovic the non-calendar-year Grand Slam. If he were to follow that with a win in the first round of Wimbledon, he would share the win-streak record with Rod Laver, the last man to win the four biggest tournaments in a row.

In his way will be Nadal, whose six French Open titles aren't the only thing he's got in common with Borg. Nadal has yet to lose a set at the tournament and has dropped only 35 games in six matches. A number that low hasn't been seen since 1980, when Borg only lost 31. Borg also holds the record — 27 in 1978.