French Open: Djokovic to face Nadal in final
Defending champion Rafa Nadal played his best tennis to set up a much-awaited French Open showdown against Novak Djokovic with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 demolition of Wimbledon winner Andy Murray in the semifinals Friday.
World No. 1 Nadal, an eight-time Roland Garros winner, did not concede a single break point in a one-sided encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier, sinking the seventh seed with a series of forehand winners.
Murray, looking to become the first British male to reach the Paris final since tennis went professional in 1968, was never in the contest and made too many unforced errors on his usually reliable forehand.
Nadal wrapped up victory on his first match point with a smash on the Scot's serve.
"I think I played some of my best tennis at Roland Garros today," said Nadal after extending his French Open record to 65 wins and one defeat. "I'm very emotional to reach the final again," he told reporters. "It's a dream. Novak is an unbelievable opponent."
World No. 2 Djokovic, who earlier beat 18th-seeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the other semifinal, is one of three men who have beaten Nadal on his favoured red dirt this year.
Nadal slammed 24 winners, most of them with his forehand, against a helpless Murray and converted all six break points he had.
"He played a great match. He missed hardly any balls. He served very well," said the Scot.
"His forehand, especially with the conditions the way they were today, was incredibly hard to control. As soon as he was inside the court he was hitting the ball so close to the line."
In hot weather that favoured the Spaniard's top spin, Murray won only 10 points on Nadal's serve. Nadal raced into a 3-0 lead after breaking in the second game when his opponent netted a forehand.
Murray held for the remainder of the set but could not trouble the Spaniard on his serve and Nadal bagged it with a casual forehand volley. In the third game of the second set the man from Mallorca broke when Murray sent an easy forehand wide.
Nadal turned the screw in the seventh game, stealing Murray's serve again as the world number eight made yet another unforced forehand error.
The top seed, who has an 88-1 record in best-of-five set matches on clay, quickly put the Scot out of his misery in the final set to reach his fifth consecutive Roland Garros final.
In the first semifinal, Djokovic eventually wore down mercurial Gulbis to reach the final but only after a dip in form that could be punished when he takes on Nadal for the only title to elude him.
The Serbian world No. 2 was cruising at two sets ahead but his level dropped suddenly allowing Gulbis to make a real match of it before he managed to finish the job 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Djokovic was overpowered by Gulbis in the third set and seemed to be lacking energy in the heat but some errors by his opponent in the fourth spared him being dragged into a decider.
"Suddenly, midway through the third set (I) started to feel physically fatigued a little bit ... You could see that both me and him, we struggled on the court," Djokovic told reporters. "I'm glad I won in four sets, because if it went to a fifth, God knows in which direction the match could go."
Djokovic will have to draw deeper on his stamina, belief and weapons tomorrow when he meets Nadal who is looking for his ninth title on the Paris clay and sent Wimbledon champion Andy Murray home for the loss of six games in their semi-final.
Nadal is trying to become the first man to win five consecutive Roland Garros singles crowns. Djokovic is looking to make his own history by becoming only the eighth man to win a career Grand Slam — something Nadal notched up in 2010.
"Of course pressure is there. Expectations are there. They are always present when you are playing on this level," said Djokovic, who will regain the world No. 1 spot if he beats the Spaniard who defeated him in the French final in 2012.
"But I'm trying to channel this energy into the right direction and not get carried away too much by the stress of the occasion.
"It is the finals of a Grand Slam that I never won. Of course I'm going to give my best to lift the trophy in two days. I'm going to have the ultimate challenge on clay across the net, Nadal."