PARIS – Regardless of the outcome, no matter the angle – Friday’s men’s
semifinals at Roland Garros will be of historic proportions.
semifinalist having so much to play for on Court Philippe Chatrier, it is all
but impossible to pick one storyline to focus on.
So significant are
Friday’s matches – between Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, and between Novak
Djokovic and Roger Federer – that they could change forever the way we view the
world’s top four players.
That the top four seeds have reached the
semifinals of a Grand Slam event for the first time in five years is hardly even
noteworthy considering everything else that is at stake.
For Nadal, the
goal is simple, at least in theory. He simply has to do again what he has done
so many times already.
After hoisting the Coupe des Mousquetaires in five
of the past six years, the world No. 1 can tie Bjorn Borg’s Open era record of
six French Open victories with a win on Sunday.
Following a mediocre
start to the tournament, the Spaniard reminded us that he should never be
doubted at Roland Garros by crushing Robin Soderling (5) in Wednesday’s
quarterfinal to book a meeting with Andy Murray (4) in the last four.
am happy about how I arrived to the semifinals, especially after the big victory
of today, I think against a difficult opponent,” said Nadal after defeating the
only man to have ever gotten the better of him on the Parisian clay. “[There
are] no secrets in this sport. Only try your best every day and try to enjoy it,
With five wins in his last seven meetings against
Murray and an undefeated record against the Briton in three previous matches on
clay, Nadal will be the clear favorite on Friday, without even taking his 43-1
French Open record into account.
However, after taking a set against
Nadal on clay the last time they met at Monte Carlo in April, Murray believes he
can defeat the Spaniard on Friday for what would be the greatest win of his
“I feel I can do it. It’s just, you know, making sure that come
Friday, I play my best tennis,” said Murray, who at the Australian Open earlier
this year became the first player since Goran Ivanisevic to lose his first three
Grand Slam finals. “I have to play a very consistent match, and I have to be
mentally strong. Tactically I’m going to have to be very good. So I can
definitely win. I just need to play my best.”
Murray once more finds
himself within touching distance of becoming the first British man to win a
major since Fred Perry at the 1936 US Open, and Nadal has no intention of taking
“To play against Andy always is a big challenge,” said
Nadal, who is also bidding for his 10th Grand Slam title to move tied into sixth
place on the all-time list with Bill Tilden. “He has all the shots. He can
defend very well; he can attack very well; he runs fantastic.”
seems to have an opinion regarding the semi between Djokovic (2) and Federer
(3), including Nadal.
“I believe it’s the best player in the world today
against the best player in history,” the 25-year-old said.
“I think both
of them have chances to be in the final. Djokovic is playing fantastic; Roger
did very well during all the tournament. Roger has enough potential to beat
everybody, and you know how good [he can be] in the final rounds of a Grand
Federer has not gone all the way in any of the past four Grand
Slam events since taking the Australian Open last year, his longest winless
streak since claiming his first major at Wimbledon in 2003.
In fact, the
Swiss master, who is also not one of the top two seeds at a major for the first
time since Wimbledon eight years ago, hasn’t even reached a Grand Slam final
since Melbourne last January.
His defeat to Soderling in the
quarterfinals in Paris last year ended his record run of 23 consecutive Grand
Slam semifinal appearances, but a win over Djokovic on Friday, and all of the
doubts that he may never win another major will quickly vanish.
looking forward to the match. I think we always really play well against
each other,” said Federer, who is hoping to advance to his fifth Roland Garros
After winning four of five matches against Djokovic in 2010,
Federer has struggled to come to terms with the Serbian this year, losing all
three of their meetings, including in straight sets in the semifinal of the
Djokovic also beat Federer in the semis of the US Open
last year, but it remains to be seen how he’ll handle the pressure
The Serbian perhaps has more on the line than any of the other
The 24-year-old is not only aiming to reach his
first French Open final, but is also looking to improve to 42-0 in 2011 to move
tied with John McEnroe for the best-ever start to a year, and perhaps most
importantly, ensure he becomes the world No. 1 for the first time in his career
regardless of Sunday’s outcome.
“I think there’s less at stake for me
than for him,” Federer said of Djokovic, who is also aiming to become the first
player since Jim Courier in 1992 to win back-to-back titles at the Australian
Open and Roland Garros. “Sure, I’d love to be again in a Grand Slam final
because I haven’t achieved that in a few slams.
But he’s got a lot of
things going on for him.
“I think the No. 1 situation is the big one
right now for him and not so much the streak. But it all goes hand in
hand. It’s going to be an interesting day.”