Roger Federer stopped Novak Djokovic from equalling one major tennis record, and now he has a chance to keep Rafael Nadal from matching another.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion moved into the French Open final for the fifth time and he did it by spoiling Djokovic’s perfect season, ending his 43-match winning streak.
“Rafa, Novak and other guys have stopped me, too. It’s just the way it goes,” Federer said after beating Djokovic 7-6 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) as darkness was settling over Court Philippe Chatrier. “I said it earlier; I wasn’t here to spoil the party.”
Federer’s next opportunity to do just that will come Sunday, when he meets Nadal in the final of the French Open, for the fourth time. The top-ranked Spaniard, who defeated Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, can equal Bjorn Borg’s record of six titles at Roland Garros with a victory.
“A lot of respect for the great Bjorn, but I focus on (trying) to play well,” said Nadal, who is 44-1 at Roland Garros. “For me, it is much more important to win Roland Garros than to equal Bjorn.”
On Saturday, defending champion Francesca Schiavone will face Li Na in the women’s final.
Federer has won more major titles than anyone in history, but he is 2-5 in Grand Slam finals against Nadal and 0-3 at Roland Garros. Overall, Nadal has won 16 of their 24 matches.
“Silverware is still out there to be won, and I’m looking forward to the match with Rafa, who I guess is my true rival, for the last years since he became world No. 1,” said Federer, the 2009 French Open champion. “It always seems to me that Rafa needs to be in a French Open final to make it special, and I got the match I guess I was hoping for.”
Facing Djokovic, however, was a match no one was hoping for.
The second-seeded Serb, who can still take over the No. 1 ranking if Federer beats Nadal on Sunday, entered the French Open with a 41-0 record in 2011, one shy of the Open era record set by John McEnroe in 1984.
His 43-match winning streak, dating back to last year’s David Cup final, included a pair of clay-court final wins over Nadal.
“Beating Novak today was maybe a good birthday gift for him because he lost his four previous matches against Novak,” Federer said of Nadal, who turned 25 on Friday. “I’m going to play against Nadal, my main rival, in another Grand Slam final. We live for these moments.”
Federer won the first set after three straight unforced errors from Djokovic in the tiebreaker, and then went up a break early in the second. Djokovic responded in the third, but Federer was too tough in the second tiebreaker.
“He went for the shots when he needed to. He served really well when he needed to serve well,” Djokovic said. “What happened, happened really. I cannot affect it anymore. In some moments I was lucky, in some moments he was lucky.”
Nadal was not exactly perfect against Murray, but he was better, saving 15 of 18 break points and converting six of the 13 he earned.
“I had a lot of break-point opportunities. Rafa played well on a lot of them,” Murray said. “He served well and was able to dictate a lot of the points with his forehand.”
Since opening the tournament by falling behind two sets to one against John Isner, Nadal has won 17 sets in a row. Whatever issues he had at start, seem to have completely disappeared.
“Being in the final of Roland Garros you can’t have problems,” said Nadal, whose only French Open loss came in the fourth round in 2009. “You cannot have doubts.”