- French Open - Rafael Nadal - records - Roger Federer - tennis
REUTERS - Three-times champion Rafael Nadal, who faces world number one Roger Federer for the third successive year on Sunday, has never looked so strong entering a French Open final.
By his own admission, the second-seeded Spaniard, who is bidding for a record-equalling fourth consecutive Musketeers’ Cup, played his best match in a 6-4 6-2 7-6 win over world number three Novak Djokovic in the semi-final.
Bjorn Borg prevailed on the Paris clay from 1978 to 1981 and it would take an mighty effort from Federer to prevent Nadal from joining the Swede in the tournament’s hall of fame.
Nadal dropped only 25 games en route to the last four this year—the fewest number dropped by a man reaching the semi-final of a grand slam.
“I was not expecting to play at this level. I was very dominant on the court. I could throw the ball anywhere I wanted. I was dominating both on my forehand and backhand and I didn’t have to think that I could make mistakes,” said Nadal, 22.
Swiss Federer, on the other hand, looked clumsy in his 6-2 5-7 6-3 7-5 defeat of France’s Gael Monfils on Friday, alternating brilliant shots with horrible unforced errors, spraying his forehand all over the place.
However, the 12-times grand slam champion believes he has improved and will have his chances on Centre Court against Nadal, who has a 27-0 record at Roland Garros since making his debut in 2005 when he beat Argentine Mariano Puerta in the final.
“It’s going to be a different match. Because Rafa is a lefty, that changes the whole dynamics of the match,” said Federer, 26.
“I’ve been able to get off to good starts in the last few times I’ve played against Rafa and I hope I can do the same again on Sunday. I feel I have the right tactics, I have the right game and I have the fitness to beat him.”
However, Nadal’s top-spin shot and his ability to pull his opponent wide with his stunning forehand have thwarted Federer eight times out of nine on clay.
The only victory for Federer came last year in the final of the Hamburg Masters, which Nadal won this year against the Swiss 7-5 6-7 6-3 after trailing 5-1 in the opening set.
In the Monte Carlo final in April, Federer lost 7-5 7-5 after leading 4-0 in the second set, suggesting he could suffer from a complex against the claycourt machine.
At Roland Garros last year, Federer won the first set before being totally overwhelmed by Nadal.
The Swiss, however, believes his time has come.
“I like this challenge, playing against him on clay, and I really am in a position to win,” he said.
“I’m the only player who managed to win against him on clay, and I hope I’m going to do that again on Sunday.”
The problem for Federer is that Nadal has never felt so confident.
“Well, tennis is an easy sport,” Nadal said. “You don’t need to change anything when you do things well. All you need to do is continue playing well.”