Djokovic crushes Federer to close on 'Novak Slam'

By Toby Davis, Reuters

Posted at Jun 09 2012 02:31 PM | Updated as of Jun 09 2012 10:31 PM

PARIS - Novak Djokovic used to doubt if he would ever be able to beat the two "strongest players" in tennis but he ruthlessly dispatched Roger Federer on Friday and now Rafa Nadal stands between him and an achievement that would eclipse them both.

The world number one swept aside third seed Federer 6-4 7-5 6-3 in the semi-finals with an imperious display of consistent hitting to move one step closer to holding all four grand slam titles at the same time.

That would be a feat unmatched by the 16-times major-winning Swiss or the Spanish battler who Djokovic faces in the final on Sunday.

It will be the Serb's first French Open final - and the seventh for Nadal - but Djokovic is unlikely to be overawed.

After a lukewarm start to the tournament, he seems to have hit form at the perfect time and made light work of Federer.

In blustery early evening sunshine, the 30-year-old's forehand lost its bearings and Djokovic was able to apply the sort of relentless pressure that few can resist.

"This is a dream for me," the delighted Serb told reporters although the match proved a nightmare for Federer.

After losing the first set, thanks to four consecutive missed forehands in the deciding game, the Swiss had a double break advantage in the second before his game went to pieces with a flurry of off-target shots.

Defensive strength

Djokovic pounced and broke in four of the next five games to see out the set.

Federer said it was the world number one's defensive strength that made him force the issue.

"It was difficult to attack," he explained. "I could have waited a little but if I were to do this I would have been playing for him.

"I was not here to play a good match but to win the match so I had to hit the balls."

With the momentum firmly in his favour, Djokovic broke again in the sixth game of the third set and closed out the match with a service winner.

The Serb is the fifth man in the professional era to reach four consecutive grand slam finals - following Nadal, Federer, Rod Laver and Andre Agassi.

Djokovic will have the chance on Sunday to join an even more exclusive club. He calls it the 'Novak Slam' although Laver (1961-62 and 69) and Don Budge (1937-38) have also held all four grand slam championships at the same time.

Asked about his chances of beating Nadal, who pulverised fellow countryman David Ferrer 6-2 6-2 6-1 in the other semi-final, Djokovic coyly joked he was "not good with numbers".

But he will not get a better chance of writing his name into tennis folklore despite the masterful Mallorcan's dominance on the Parisian clay.

"I had a lot of doubts in the last couple of years if I could really overcome the big challenge of the two strongest and most dominant players in our sport," said Djokovic.

"I believe I'm at the peak of my career. I've played the best tennis of my life in the last year and a half and I should use that as a confidence boost and try to get my hands on the title." (Editing by Tony Jimenez)