Rafael Nadal has once again been in dominant French Open form, dispatching his first five opponents with ease on his quest to win a fifth straight and his ninth overall French Open title. Andy Murray will be the next player tasked with trying to best Nadal at Rolland Garros when he faces the No. 1 seed in the men's singles semifinals on Friday. The match will be one of two scheduled, with No. 2 Novak Djokovic taking on No. 18 Ernests Gulbis in the other semifinal.
Murray has beaten Nadal before, with five head-to-head victories in 19 matches. None of those five wins, however, came on a clay surface. Nadal is a perfect 5-0 against Murray on the red stuff, including a straight-set win in the 2011 French Open. Although he may not be in the peak form he was earlier in his career, Nadal remains strong on clay. He's dropped just one set in five matches and lost more than three games in a set just three times. Murray needed five sets to advance past Gael Monfils in the quarterfinals, but swept Monfils 6-0 in the fifth set to get a shot at Nadal.
The men's final at the French Open is set after semifinal action Friday and -- surprise! -- Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will go head-to-head for another major title. The meeting will be the seventh between the two in the final match at a Grand Slam tournament. The most recent was the final of the 2013 U.S. Open, where Nadal beat Djokovic in four sets to win his 13th major title.
Since that bout at Flushing Meadows, however, Djokovic has dominated the series. Djokovic has won all four meetings since, including on clay this past May to win the 2014 Rome Masters. The two have met 17 times on clay, and Djokovic has won just four of those matches, though he has taken two of the last three.
Through the 2014 French Open, Nadal has appeared much better than the No. 1 overall player who stumbled into Roland Garros, however. He has played just one match longer than three sets -- a four-set victory over David Ferrer in the quarterfinals, during which he took the final two sets 6-1 and 6-0. On Friday, he trounced Andy Murray -- 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 -- winning 78 of 118 total points. He did not give up a break point opportunity, and broke Murray five times in five chances. Nadal landed his first serve in play at a 76 percent clip, scoring on 41 of 45 (!) of those serves.
Djokovic's victory was more workman-like, which is typical of the Serbian's performances in majors. He faced Federer-slayer Ernests Gulbis, and was able to weather the Latvian's powerful serve just enough -- he scored on 37 percent of the serves he received -- to win the match by simply being more sound. Djokovic had 30 winners to Gulbis' 40, but just 25 unforced errors to his opponent's 44.
A 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, victory reflects a match that was never in doubt except for a brief lapse of attention. He will be on point for Sunday's bout against Nadal in what should be another epic chapter in an incredible rivalry.
The winner of the match between Nadal and Murray will face the winner of the match between Djokovic and Gulbis. Djokovic is now two wins away from his first French Open, which would complete his career grand slam. He's been pushed beyond three sets just once thus far. The 25-year-old Gulbis rallied to defeat Roger Federer in five sets in the fourth round before cruising by Tomas Berdych in straight sets in the quarterfinals. The two have played just five times with Djokovic winning four of the five, including in the 2008 French Open.
Live television coverage will begin on Tennis Channel at 7 a.m. ET. Tennis Channel's coverage will continue until 11 a.m. when NBC will pick up coverage until 2 p.m. The NBC broadcast will also be available online via NBC Sports LiveExtra.
TV: Tennis Channel - 7-11 a.m. ET, NBC 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET
No. 2 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 18 Ernests Gulbis -- 7 a.m. ET
No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray -- following the first semifinal