Results from Day 13 of the French Open 2011, where two very familiar faces will compete in the Roland Garros men's final this Sunday.
No. 3 Roger Federer def. No. 2 Novak Djokovic, 7-6(5) 6-3 3-6 7-6(5). Brace yourselves, sports fans, for another Federer-Nadal final at Roland Garros. One more match could have put Djokovic in the catbird seat for the World No. 1 ranking, kept him on an uncrooked path to obliterate John McEnroe's all-time win streak record, and sent him to his very first final in Paris. Whether it was the crowd's decidedly partisan Fed-ward lean, the four-day layoff between matches, nasty court conditions, or just nerves, the Serb came unhinged, and Federer played like the frozen-rope robot we've all come to revere, if not adore.
This match was not one for the faint of heart. Federer, you'll recall, headed into the third set knowing he was undefeated when holding a two-set lead in a major, but you'd never know it from the way he coughed it up to Djokovic, 3-6. He regained his composure for the fourth set, and as an increasingly edgy Djokovic called for quiet before what would be the final point of the match, it was almost impossible to recall why tennis' leading procurer of Grand Slam championships entered Paris in 2011 as a practical nonentity. Our mistake.
Federer rose, shot a fluid ace across the net, wagged one finger at the crowd, then let out an astonishingly human scream of triumph. The tournament umpire descended to congratulate him with a grin. Djokovic was all smiles for the handshake, though his devastation must be real. He's lost twice since Thanksgiving weekend, both times to the Swiss precision instrument who's the only player that seems to have his number. Neither fact is anything to sneeze at.
The current World No. 1, Nadal is 5-0 on Court Philippe Chatrier. Three of those wins have come at the expense of the legend of Federer. But for the first time, the story tomorrow will be that neither player is exactly humming at the top of his game. Tune in Sunday morning for one showstopper of a showdown that, for once, doesn't seem all that weighted towards the king of clay.
The 2011 French Open women's final, featuring No. 5 Francesca Schiavone vs. No. 6 Li Na, begins play at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The match will air on NBC.