/ Tennis

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic set for semi showdown at French Open

Updated: Wednesday, 05 Jun 2013 21:08 | Comments

Novak Djokovic has enjoyed the Indian sign over Rafael Nadal in recent seasons
Novak Djokovic has enjoyed the Indian sign over Rafael Nadal in recent seasons

There will be something different about the latest chapter in the rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

They have met 34 times, more than Nadal and Roger Federer, and they will come face to face across the net again in the French Open semi-finals on Friday.

Eleven of those matches have come in the last three seasons, eight of them won by Djokovic, and all of them in finals.

The Serb has won Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, Nadal last year's French Open, but the Spaniard's seven-month break because of knee problems means he is only seeded third here.

That set up the possibility of them being on the same side of the draw and, once that happened, it seemed inevitable the match-up would too.

Nadal, of course, has lost only once at Roland Garros and won the title seven times, while Djokovic is through to his 12th consecutive grand slam semi-final.

The world number one took the unusual step of having journalists told not to ask questions on the draw ahead of his pre-tournament press conference.

He said after today's 6-3 7-6 (7/5) 7-5 victory over Tommy Haas: "It is what it is. I don't want to talk about what if, what if, because we are playing in the semi-finals and we are both in good shape. It's going to be a good match.

"I'm feeling good about my game. It's few adjustments here and there, but of course I am satisfied to be able to win in straight sets and not to stay on the court for too long.

"I could have done the job before in the third set but he came back with some good points. That's it. Now I have a big challenge in front of me and I'm ready for it.

"Regardless if I play Rafa or if I play somebody else, it's the same mindset. But I need that necessary intensity from the start.

"I need to be willing to and needing to play on top of my game throughout the whole match, because that's what it's going to take to win against him."

Nadal, who is going for an unprecedented eighth title at a single grand slam, had struggled through the first week, dropping sets to Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan.

But he rediscovered his form against Kei Nishikori two days ago and looked even better today in a 6-2 6-3 6-1 victory over Stanislas Wawrinka, who has not managed to win even a set in 10 matches against Nadal.

The Spaniard said: "I said I need to make a change. I was confident that I can do it and I did. So now I am in the semi-finals, three matches in a row without losing a set. The last two matches I only lost one service game.

"That's starting to be very positive numbers. They're only numbers, but the most important thing at the end is the feeling, and the feeling is completely different.

"I know that I will play against the best player of the world. I know that he's having great results for a long time.

"I'm just trying to play my way, trying to find my rhythm and trying to play my best match. That's the only way to have a chance in the semi-finals.

"But, for me, it's the semi-finals, and it doesn't matter if it's against Novak or against another player, because the player who is going to win the semi-finals is not the champion of Roland Garros."

Djokovic's run of consecutive slam semi-finals is behind only Roger Federer, who managed an incredible 23 from Wimbledon in 2004 to the Australian Open in 2010.

The last time the Serb failed to reach the last four was here in 2010, and he said: "It's fantastic.

"Comparing to Roger's, maybe it's not as good, but I'm glad that I have been playing very consistent and always playing my best tennis at the grand slams, because that's what I want.

"That's what most of the players want, because everything goes around these tournaments. They are the biggest and most prestigious events we have in this sport."

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