Tuesday 20 March 2018

Djokovic ready for five-setter against Nadal

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates defeating Germany's Tommy Haas in three sets 6-3, 7-6, 7-5, in their quarterfinal match
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates defeating Germany's Tommy Haas in three sets 6-3, 7-6, 7-5, in their quarterfinal match

Simon Briggs

THE current best player in the world meets the greatest claycourt player of all time in a French Open blockbuster today – and it is not even the final.

Unusually, no silverware will be at stake when Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Spaniard Rafa Nadal strut on to Philippe Chatrier court to face each other for the 35th time and whoever prevails will be favourite to lift the Musketeers' Cup on Sunday.

Unless, of course, it turns into the kind of last-man-standing trench warfare that is so often the case between them and there is nothing left in the armoury for a final against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Spaniard David Ferrer.

Sixth seed Tsonga, who clinically dispatched Roger Federer in straight sets in the quarter-finals, faces his day of reckoning as he attempts to become the first Frenchman to reach the singles final at Roland Garros since Henri Leconte in 1988.

Fourth seed Ferrer is a nuggety opponent yet to drop a set here so far and the 31-year-old will relish the role of party-pooper as he seeks to reach a first Grand Slam final.

Today will be the first time Djokovic and Nadal have met before the final of a tournament, other than the ATP World Tour finals round-robin stage, since 2009. In the last 11 meetings, five of which have been in grand slam finals, everything has been on the line.

The most remarkable of those battles was the 2012 Australian Open final where Djokovic and Nadal fought each other to a standstill before the Serb prevailed in a five-hour-53-minute epic.

That was Djokovic's seventh successive victory over Nadal and it seemed he had cracked the hardest nut in tennis, but since then, the 27-year-old Mallorcan has responded with three wins from the last four and leads their overall series 19-15.

Despite today's clash falling a round early than most neutrals would like, Djokovic said the mindset of both players would not change in the slightest.

"I'm ready for five sets," he said. "That doesn't mean there are going to be five sets. We'll see what's gonna be.

"Nobody can predict what's going to happen, especially in our matches."

Yesterday's women's semi-finals were separated by a parade of eminent female players to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the WTA tour.

Thanks to the revolution brought about by Billie Jean King and her colleagues, the four grand slams now hand out equal pay to both sexes. This might seem excessive in the case of Sara Errani, who lasted just 46 minutes in her 6-0 6-1 defeat to Serena Williams.

Still, perhaps Errani deserves some danger money for going out there in front of what was a one-woman firing squad. Williams won 51 points and 40 of them came via clean winners.

You would have expected the first semi-final, between the world No 2 Maria Sharapova and No 3 Victoria Azarenka, to be a far closer affair – and it was. Sharapova started strongly, then dropped the second set, before regrouping after a rain break to take the match 6-1 2-6 6-4. Sharapova, the defending champion, will now face Williams in the final. It will be their 16th meeting, but you can hardly call it a rivalry, for Sharapova goes into tomorrow's match on a 12-match losing streak. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

French Open,

Live, Eurosport 11.30/Setanta 12.0

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport