World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will play Rafael Nadal in Sunday's French Open final
Djokovic beat Roger Federer to keep alive his dream of holding all four grand slams
Nadal thrashed David Ferrer to earn a chance at a record seventh Paris crown
The last man to hold to hold all four majors was Australian Rod Laver in 1969
The stage is set for another classic men’s grand slam final on Sunday after Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal set up a French Open showdown with much more than just the title at stake.
World No. 1 Djokovic will seek to become the first man since 1969 to hold all four majors at the same time, and only the third ever, while second-ranked Nadal is aiming for a record seventh crown at Roland Garros.
Djokovic is through to the Paris final for the first time after avenging last year’s semi defeat against the man who ended his 43-match winning streak, Roger Federer.
The Serbian struggled to overcome Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in five sets in his previous match, but was dominant against the 16-time grand slam champion on Friday as he triumphed 6-4 7-5 6-3 in just over two hours.
Nadal, the modern game’s “King of Clay,” crushed fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the opening semifinal as he won 6-2 6-2 6-1 against the sixth seed to take his record at the tournament to 51-1.
His only defeat came against Robin Soderling in 2009, when Federer won the title to complete his career grand slam.
This year Nadal has not dropped a set in six matches, losing only 35 games in total.
“My level has improved slightly against last year ao I am satisfied and happy because I’ve already improved,” said the 26-year-old, who is tied with Bjorn Borg on six titles.
“Last year I had the impression I didn’t really play that well; whereas this year I’m playing really well. I am having almost a perfect clay-court season, and we’ll see what’s going on in the final.”
Last year Djokovic beat Nadal in six successive finals, including two on clay, but he hasn’t been as dominant in 2012 since overcoming his rival in the longest grand slam title match in history at the Australian Open in January. That followed his Wimbledon and U.S. Open successes in 2011, setting up his tilt at history.
Nadal triumphed in straight sets in their final encounters in Monte Carlo – a tournament where Djokovic played on despite the death of his grandfather – and Rome last month.
While Nadal has strolled through his half of the draw in Paris, Djokovic has twice been taken to five sets as he saved four match-points against home hope Tsonga after retrieving a 2-0 deficit against 22nd seed Andreas Seppi in the previous round.
However, Djokovic showed his true class against Federer as he denied the Swiss third seed a chance to win his first grand slam since 2010.
“I am happy to be in the final here, it’s always difficult to play against Roger,” said the 25-year-old, who has hopes of completing a “Golden Slam” this year with the addition of the Olympic title.
“It’s a dream to be in the final, but Rafa, who always plays so well here, will be the favorite.”
Federer was disappointed after blowing a 3-0 lead in the second set, and was also 5-4 ahead.
“He played well under difficult conditions,” the 30-year-old said. “But I had chances. There are no excuses.
“I tried and if I had won that second set, it would have been a different match. But it didn’t work out.”
Rod Laver is the last man to hold all four grand slam titles, and the Australian did it twice in a calendar year – in 1962 as an amateur and then in 1969 as a professional.
American Don Budge also achieved the feat in 1938.