Nadal chasing seventh French title, Djokovic after four consecutive major

Share story

PARIS — By late Friday at the French Open, history was guaranteed, with the most-anticipated final now official, as if written in a script. Tennis record books will be rewritten Sunday, one way or another, by Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, who spent the past two weeks on a clay collision course to another Grand Slam final.

By late Sunday, Nadal will have hoisted his record seventh Roland Garros championship trophy. Or Djokovic will have won his fourth consecutive major title.

Either way, an age as golden as any in men’s tennis will continue to unfold. Same as it did Friday, when Nadal toyed with a hapless David Ferrer and Djokovic devoured a shaky but game Roger Federer, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

Few dared to pick against Nadal, including Federer, who said: “I’m sure it’s going to be a good match. I obviously pick Rafa. I think he’s the overwhelming favorite.”

Here’s why: Nadal did not beat Ferrer so much as he bludgeoned him, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Nadal so dominated all three sets, it was easy to forget that Ferrer entered their semifinal as the world’s sixth-ranked player.

“One of my best matches on this court” is how Nadal described it.

“He plays better than me all the time,” Ferrer said. “I didn’t have a chance.”

Should Nadal triumph again Sunday, he would have one more title here than the other candidate for best clay-court player ever, Bjorn Borg.

As Nadal cruised, Djokovic appeared unsteady, as if he felt the pressure of history upon him. He required five sets to dispatch Andreas Seppi in the fourth round and five more against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals.

Against Federer, unlike in their U.S. Open semifinal classic in September, Djokovic needed no such dramatics. He broke Federer late in the first set and captured the back-and-forth second stanza that featured seven service breaks by breaking Federer four times. Federer made no excuses afterward. Djokovic played better, he said.

Djokovic stands one victory from accomplishing something neither Nadal, nor Federer, ever have, and it seems as if those two break one record or another every week. Djokovic is one win from having won all four Grand Slam events in row, if not in the same season.

“There’s obviously nothing better than having the chance to do something that hasn’t been done in 43 years,” said John McEnroe. “It’s not technically the Grand Slam, but I’d come up with some statue or something, and I’d be parading it around my house for the rest of my life.”

Sharapova meets

Errani for title

Maria Sharapova is a three-time major champion and a global superstar, and her story is well-known: born in Sibera, moved with her father to Florida as a kid, worked with Nick Bollettieri.

Her opponent in the French Open final, Sara Errani, has a tale that is far less familiar. When she was 12, she struck out on her own, leaving behind her family in Italy and heading off to Bollettieri’s famed tennis academy in Florida.

Far from her parents, and not yet able to speak English well, Errani stuck it out for about 10 months, crying nearly every day. She called home a lot.

Says her mother, Fulvia: “I knew she would figure things out.”

Now 25, Errani most certainly has. She’ll be playing in her first Grand Slam final Saturday.

And before she even sets foot on the court Saturday, Errani owns a major title: She teamed with Roberta Vinci to beat Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the women’s doubles final Friday.

The Associated Press contributed

to this report.