Federer, Djokovic ready for highly anticipated clash

Reigning Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal summed up the highly anticipated semi-final clash between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. “The best player of the world today against the best player of history,” said the World No. 1. “It’s gonna be, in my opinion, a fantastic match.”

This marks the third straight Grand Slam tournament that Djokovic and Federer will be going head-to-head for a place in the final, but this one holds perhaps the most significance. A victory for Djokovic would extend his perfect season record to 42-0, tying John McEnroe’s record best season start. More importantly, it would see the 24 year old become the first player to break the seven-year stranglehold of Federer and Nadal atop the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

“I know [Djokovic] has a lot on the line,” said Federer, who first debuted at World No. 1 after winning the Australian Open title in 2004. “I’m looking forward to that match. I think we usually play pretty well against each other.”

Federer leads Djokovic 13-9 in the FedEx ATP Head2Head series (2-1 on clay), and holds the distinction as the last player to have beaten the Serbian. Since that loss in the semi-finals of last November’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, Djokovic has been won 43 straight matches – with three of those victories coming against Federer this season.

Djokovic has also won their past two Grand Slam encounters – saving two match points in a five-set thriller at last year’s US Open and cruising to a straight-sets win in Melbourne – to narrow Federer’s edge at majors to 4-3.

This, however, will be their first meeting at Roland Garros. Djokovic has never advanced beyond the semi-finals at the clay-court Slam, while Federer reached four consecutive finals from 2006-09, claiming the title after three runner-up finishes to Nadal.

Going into the semi-finals, the 29-year-old Swiss is the only player remaining who has yet to drop a set during the fortnight, despite having arguably the most difficult draw. Of the four semi-finalists, Federer was the only one to encounter three seeded players – No. 29 Janko Tipsarevic, No. 14 Stanislas Wawrinka, No. 9 Gael Monfils.

“It was a tricky draw and I’m happy that I made my way through to the semis,” he said. “I’ve never diverted from my plan of focusing on myself and I’m very happy with the way I’m playing. For me the plan is to try and take a step further and reach the final of the French Open.”

Djokovic’s biggest test came against 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, whom he defeated in four sets in the third round.

When he takes the court against Federer, it will be his first match since Sunday’s fourth-round win over Richard Gasquet – courtesy of a walkover against Italian Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals.

Djokovic downplayed the long layoff in an interview with John McEnroe, welcoming the break after a busy season. “I’ve played a lot of tennis, so I don’t think rhythm wise, I’m going to be affected,” he said.

Djokovic will be looking to reach his fifth Grand Slam final and Federer his 23rd. After reaching 18 of 19 Grand Slam finals between 2005 Wimbledon and the 2010 Australian Open, Federer has now gone four majors without contesting the title match – his longest drought since winning his first Wimbledon title in 2003.

“He’s a great player, a great champion,” said Djokovic. “But I’ve been playing the best tennis of my life, and I need to get out there and believe that I can win. That’s the only way I can get a positive outcome.”

Date: 03.06.2011, Source: ATP


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