x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Djokovic up for 'ultimate challenge' with Nadal

History in the line as Serb meets Spaniard for fourth time in a year, for a rare Grand Slam and beat Federer's 27 successive wins in majors.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Switzerland's Roger Federer.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Switzerland's Roger Federer.

Novak Djokovic gained revenge for last year's semi-final defeat by Roger Federer with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory at Roland Garros last night.

The world No 1 will meet Rafael Nadal in the final, which will mark the first time the same two men have contested all the major finals in succession.

More history will be on the line tomorrow, with Nadal going for a record seventh French Open title while Djokovic is bidding to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at once.

The final may have seemed preordained, but Federer had his chances against Djokovic in the rain-delayed match.

"I know I have to be playing consistently well on a very high level to win a best-of-five against Nadal here," Djokovic said. "It's the ultimate challenge. But I believe today was my best match of 2012 Roland Garros for me. I raised my game when I needed to. That's something that gives me confidence before the final."

The key stat in Djokovic's win was Federer's 46 unforced errors to 17 for Djokovic.

Federer, a 16-time major championship winner, struggled under the pressure of having to go for big shots.

"It was difficult to attack," Federer said. "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."

Serving to stay in the first set, Federer missed four forehands over the span of five points en route to the loss. Federer broke Djokovic twice in three games for a 3-0 lead in the second set and it appeared a repeat of last year's thrilling US Open semi-final, in which Djokovic saved two match points to win a five-setter, might be in store.

Instead, Djokovic won 13 of the next 18 games to avenge his last loss in a major tournament.

"When you come back from double break down against a player like Federer, it's a success, a great achievement," Djokovic said. "But I can't allow myself to have that many ups and downs, especially in the next match."

Since his loss to Federer last year, Djokovic has won 27 consecutive matches in grand slam tournaments, matching Federer for second place on the Open era list.

Federer, who has plenty of experience against both of Sunday's finalists, predicted a victory by Nadal.

"I think he's the overwhelming favourite," Federer said. "We'll see how it goes."

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