Roger Federer believes he has the ability to finally wear down Rafael Nadal and win the French Open in Paris today.
In each of the last three years he has fallen to the Spaniard, in the semi-finals in 2005 and in the two subsequent finals. That leaves him still one shy of becoming just the sixth player in history to win all four Grand Slam titles during his career, a feat that would all but seal the argument over who is the greatest player of all time. Federer believes he is getting closer.
“I think maybe three years ago, when I played him the first time, in the semi-final, I guess I just came in and I thought I could blow him off the court,” he said. “I really felt like I had the game. I was very close. I was up a break in the fourth to push it to the fifth set, so it was close, after all. I think over all the years I’ve been able to improve. That gives me more variety, gives me more opportunities, and I have been able to vary more with my tactics.”
On the evidence of Friday’s semi-finals though, Nadal will start today’s final a hotter favorite than ever.
He pounded third seed Novak Djokovic, defeating the Australian Open champion 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), while Federer blew hot and cold against unseeded Frenchman Gael Monfils, before scraping through 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.
The Swiss maestro watched most of the first semi-final on television before he took to the court to take on Monfils and he agreed that Nadal’s tennis had been at times “sublime” and presented him with the “ultimate test on clay.”
“He hasn’t had any problems whatsoever. It isn’t like he’s not been improving and I think it’s great what’s happening in the game,” he said. “We have the same guys always at the very top and we are testing each other over and over again. I think it’s very entertaining. I believe very strongly that this is my year. I did the hard work so far, but I think the toughest test is yet to come.”
Just how tough is borne out by the statistics. The two have played nine times on clay in their 16 career games and Federer has won only once — in the final of the Hamburg Masters Series tournament last year. That sole win gives the ever-optimistic Federer hope.
“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.”
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