The Argentinean quit because of a an injured abdominal muscleFederer has extended his Grand Slam winning streak to 27 matches

PARIS: Roger Federer overcame a dismal start on Friday to earn his first ever berth in final at Roland Garros when David Nalbandian retired with an injury in the third set.

Down a set and 3-0 in the second, the top-seeded Federer rallied to lead 3-6, 6-4, 5-2 when Nalbandian quit with an injured abdominal muscle.

Later, reigning champion Rafael Nadal set up a dream final against Federer with victory over Ivan Ljubicic.

Spaniard Nadal beat the Croatian in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7) to extend his record clay court winning streak to 59 matches.

In the first semifinal, third-seeded Nalbandian called for a trainer trailing 2-1 in the third set, again received treatment at 3-2 and quit after playing two more games. It was the first retirement in the men's semifinals at Roland Garros in the Open era.

``It's a shame,'' Federer said. ``He fought hard. For one set and a half, he played perfect tennis.

``I had to do something. He was perfect. I hit amazing shots which got me back into the match. He wished me good luck and hopedI would win the Slam.''

``I really thought I was going to lose that match,'' Federer said. ``I was fortunate, for I was not doing too well.''

"I was hoping to get the opportunity to win my first French Open, and you only get that opportunity once you reach the final," said Federer, who had only once before made it to the last four.

"The quarterfinal and semifinal is nice but you want to go out there on Sunday."

If Federer wins the title, he would become only the third man to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, joining Don Budge and Rod Laver. He would also become the sixth man to achieve a career Slam by winning all four majors.

By beating Nalbandian, Federer extended his Grand Slam winning streak to 27 matches. He has reached the final in his past 14 tournaments, second during the Open era only to Ivan Lendl's 18 straight in 1981.

But his latest victory didn't come easily.

Slow start

On another day fit for a Paris postcard much of the crowd was late to show up. Federer was, too, losing three of his first six service games while Nalbandian served well, held easily and won five consecutive games for a 3-0 lead in the second set.

Federer was late to reach shots and erratic with his forehand. Sensing an upset, Nalbandian's fans chanted and waved Argentine flags.

Then came the abrupt turnaround. Nalbandian lost serve at love, double-faulting on break point, and Federer began to crack winners, his mood improved.

``C'mon!'' he shouted for the first time after forcing a Nalbandian error.

``David played a great first set and a half,'' Federer said. ``But then I started to hit some fabulous shots, and it gave me confidence.''

Federer won five consecutive games for 5-3, then served out the set easily to even the match. He broke again to start the third set and didn't face a break point in his final seven service games.

Shot of the tournament

The seventh game of the second set typified the erratic match. Federer hit the shot of the tournament, retreating for a lob, back to the net, then spinning to hit a forehand winner at shoelace level. He raised his index finger as the crowd roared.

For the Swiss, that was the turning point.

``I thought somehow I have to find a way to get into this match,'' said Federer. ``I was not playing well, he was playing the way you are supposed to in the wind, making no errors.

``I couldn't get ball in play, I was shocked, something had to happen. I made a shot like this. You can't pull those off on a consistent basis but they give you a bit of tailwind, something extra.

``They get you going and I needed it at that point.''

Federer reeled off five games in a row and eight from nine to move a break ahead in the third.

Nalbandian called the trainer at 1-2 and when he was broken a second time for 2-5, he decided he could go on no more. Agencies

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