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Records on the line as Nadal to face Djokovic

Rafael Nadal
by Alexandra Willis
Friday 8 June 2012

There will be one record-breaker on Sunday, that much we know for certain. It will either be Novak Djokovic, the first man to win all four Grand Slam singles titles back to back since Rod Laver. Or, it will be Rafael Nadal, the first man in the Open era to win seven Roland Garros crowns. 

The pair's respective dominance in their semi-finals against Roger Federer and David Ferrer was so breathtaking it was almost mundane. Nadal wheeled through the match against his fellow Spaniard for the loss of just five games, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, an almost laughable scoreline for a Grand Slam semi-final. 

"He plays better than me all the time," was all Ferrer could say with a wry shrug, the margin in score, the greatest in a men's Grand Slam semi-final since 1986, belying the Spanish No.2's well-known heart and bottle. 

Even Rafa was moved to call his performance "fantastic," the Mallorcan through to the last two without the loss of a set. 

Djokovic's victory over Federer, meanwhile, was a far cry from the last two Grand Slam duels the pair have contested. At this stage a year ago, Federer produced the match of his year to out-play Djokovic in four sets and end the Serb's extraordinary match-winning streak. A few months later, Djokovic got his revenge, surviving match points against him with surely the most outrageous forehand return ever seen. He went on to win that US Open semi-final, and then the title. 

There was to be no such titanic tennis this time. In windy conditions worthy of Eastbourne rather than Paris, Federer's game was littered with errors, surrendering a break in the second set, and a position to serve for it, and eventually going down in three, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 as Djokovic moved oh-so-calmly into his first French Open final. 

The Serb is thus just one win from completing what would be arguably the finest feat in men's tennis since Rod Laver won the calendar year Grand Slam in 1969. 

But he is on Nadal's home turf. And the Spaniard hasn't looked like letting up, not for a second. Whether the demons of their extraordinary Australian Open final, in which Djokovic recovered to win when it looked like he couldn't even stand, remains to be seen. But perhaps this time, it will be different. 

Record-book-writers, get ready. 

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