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French Open repeat beckons Federer, Nadal

As Federer and Nadal take go into their semis on Friday, they know that the opponents will not let them prevail easily.

sports Updated: Jun 08, 2007 12:27 IST

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's French Open destiny could be sabotaged on Friday by a colourful Serb, who decorates his personal website with videos of himself dancing, and a pasty Russian.

Novak Djokovic, rated as a future world number one by double defending champion Nadal, takes on the Spaniard who has won all of his 19 career matches at Roland Garros.

In the other semi-final, Federer, who needs a French Open crown to complete a career Grand Slam, faces Nikolay Davydenko, the low-profile but high-achieving Russian who he's defeated in all of their eight career meetings.

Nadal has been in imperious form at the 2007 tournament where he has yet to drop a set and hopes to emulate Bjorn Borg's 1978-1981 mark of winning three consecutive French Opens.

But he won't underestimate the sixth-seeded Djokovic who, at 20, is a year younger than the world number two after the Serb defeated him in the Miami Masters final in March.

"He is playing very good tennis and he's the number three in the Champions Race. He's very young and has improved a lot," said Nadal who reached the semi-finals with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-0 win over close friend and 1998 champion Carlos Moya.

"He has unbelievable potential and can be a future world number one. He's a great player and he wins many matches from difficult positions. He has a great serve and he's young and they are great advantages."

Despite his defeat on the hard courts of Miami, Nadal has beaten the Serb twice on clay - in the quarter-finals here in 2006, when Djokovic was forced to quit with a back injury, and in Rome this year in straight sets.

Djokovic, only the second Serbian man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final after Slobodan Zivojinovic, who made the last four at the 1985 Australian Open and 1986 Wimbledon, insists he has nothing to lose on Friday.

"I don't see myself yet as a Grand Slam winner," he said after his 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 quarter-final win over Russia's Igor Andreev.

"I'm just trying to go one step at a time. I'm in the semi-final and there's two matches to go but I'm playing the most difficult players on this surface."

At least, Djokovic shouldn't have any problems with his footwork on Friday.

Log onto his personal website and rather than dry career statistics you are more likely to find videos of him dancing with girlfriend Jelena or performing his own version of 1960s pop standard Proud Mary.

In stark contrast, Davydenko has built a steady career in the shadows of the men's game but will have to step up against Federer if he is to break his run of eight defeats in eight matches with the world number one.

Included in that dispiriting list is a defeat in Hamburg in 2005 in the pair's only meeting on clay as well as losses at the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in January.

"In Australia, he had some trouble against me. Now I will have to find my best game against him," said the 26-year-old, who despite tipping the scales at just 70kg, has built a reputation for his never-say-die approach.

Federer, with four Wimbledon, three Australian and three US Open titles amongst his 48-trophy collection, would become only the third man in history to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time if he triumphs in Sunday's final.

But the Swiss is determined not to be distracted by talk of records and landmarks.

"I don't want to think about records especially at Roland Garros. I have a tough match against Davydenko, he's made real headway over the years," said Federer.

"I played him in Milan a few years ago but he wasn't fantastic, there were some shortcomings in his game. But now he has a strong mindset and on clay he will be a tough opponent."

First Published: Jun 07, 2007 12:07 IST