- Associated Press - Saturday, June 9, 2012

PARIS (AP) - Rafael Nadal has played 52 matches at Roland Garros and walked off the court a winner all but once.

Three of those wins have come against Novak Djokovic, who hasn’t so much as taken a set off the king of the clay.

A mismatch? Try a must-see match _ if not because of the recent, six-hour drama they put on the last time a Grand Slam title was at stake, then because of the history that will be no matter who wins Sunday.

Nadal is going for his seventh title at the French Open, a number that would surpass the great Bjorn Borg.

Djokovic is trying to become the first man in 43 years to win four Grand Slam tournaments in a row.

Two men, their fates intertwined at almost every turn during this French Open, will dig the answers out of the dirt in Paris.

“I haven’t won a set against him in this court. All the facts are on his side,” Djokovic said. “But, look, I feel different nowadays. I believe I’m at the peak of my career. I’m playing the best tennis of my life in last year and a half, and I should use that. I should use that as a confidence (boost) and try to get my hands on a title.”

Speaking of confidence boosts, top-seeded Djokovic got one Friday in a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 3 seed Roger Federer _ a match that wasn’t as close as it sounded. Playing the last man to beat him in a Grand Slam tournament, Djokovic bullied Federer around the court, overcame two breaks early in the second set and finished with a stat that was even more telling than the score: 17 unforced errors to 46 by Federer.

“It was difficult to attack,” said Federer, who had as much trouble with Djokovic as the gusty winds that swept through Roland Garros yet again. “And being defensive _ I could have waited a little. But if I were to do this, I was playing for him. I was not here to play a good match but to win the match, so I had to hit the balls. It was a bit disappointing today.”

And yet, it was a better show than the one that preceded it _ Nadal’s 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 whitewashing of sixth-seeded David Ferrer.

The Nadal blowout wasn’t all that unexpected.

Djokovic’s walk in the park against a 16-time major title winner was a bit more surprising.

“I have won against a great player today,” Djokovic said. “First time I find myself on Sunday in Paris. Let’s see what I can do.”

The last time Djokovic met Nadal with a Grand Slam title in the balance, he came out with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 victory in a match that took 5 hours, 53 minutes _ the longest Grand Slam singles final by time.

“It’s definitely the most exciting match I ever had in my career,” Djokovic said.

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