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Federer, Nadal set up showdown
PARIS (AP) — Roger Federer watched one more shot by one more opponent miss its mark, then released a guttural yell and shook his fist, a tad relieved to have won when he was close to his worst.
His three-hour struggle of a French Open semifinal was over yesterday, and Federer knew at that moment he was again one more victory from the only major championship to elude him, one more victory from a fourth consecutive Grand Slam title.
For the third time in the past five Grand Slam finals, it’ll be Roger vs. Rafa, No. 1 vs. No. 2. With so much at stake.
“I’ve put myself in position,” Federer said after erasing deficits in every set to beat No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia 7-5, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) and reach his eighth consecutive Grand Slam final, breaking a record established in 1934. “Now I just have one match to go. So hopefully I can do it this year.”
“It’s a very important match for him,” Nadal said, “but it’s also very important match for me.”
That’s because the Spaniard is hoping to become the first man since Bjorn Borg from 1978 to 1981 to win three straight French Opens. Nadal improved to 20-0 at Roland Garros by eliminating No. 6 Novak Djokovic of Serbia 7-5, 6-4, 6-2.
“He’s very dominant here,” Djokovic said.
Federer dominates everywhere else. He’s won a total of 10 titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, but he’s always come up short at Roland Garros, including losses to Nadal in the semifinals in 2005 and the final last year.
But win tomorrow, and Federer becomes only the sixth man with a career Grand Slam, and the first man in nearly 40 years to win four majors in a row. It wouldn’t be a true Grand Slam — winning all four majors in a calendar year, accomplished by Don Budge in 1938 and by Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969 — but call it a “Roger Slam,” akin to the “Tiger Slam” that Tiger Woods fashioned with four straight golf majors across 2000 and 2001.
“It’s not the same. It’s not doing it in one year. It’s doing it at the end of one year and the beginning of the next,” Laver said by telephone from Carlsbad, Calif. “Still, it’s unbelievable — if he does it.”
“If I arrive [tomorrow], and I don’t play a very, very, very good match, I’m going to lose for sure,” said Nadal, who lost to Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final and is always quick to remind everyone which of the two is ranked No. 1. “If I play a very good match, maybe I’m going to lose, too.”
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