Rafael Nadal & Roger Federer eyeing French Open glory

By Piers NewberyBBC Sport at Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal will have to contain a rampant Roger Federer if he is to secure a record-equalling sixth French Open title on Sunday, and keep hold of his world number one ranking.

The Spaniard, who turned 25 on Friday, has won 44 matches and suffered only one defeat in seven years at Roland Garros, and one more victory will bring him a 10th Grand Slam title and draw him level with Bjorn Borg as the tournament's most dominant man.

"For me, seriously, I don't think about that," said Nadal. "[I have] a lot of respect for the great Bjorn but I am focused on trying to play well. For me, it's much more important to win Roland Garros than equal Bjorn."

The weather forecast is not good for Sunday and interruptions are possible, but Nadal rejected any suggestion that heavier conditions would favour him.

"I don't have the power to control the weather," he said. "So if it rains, I'm going to think it's an advantage for me; if the sun shines, I'm going to think it's an advantage for me. I have to think positive all the time because I cannot control that."

Having beaten the 29-year-old Swiss in all four previous meetings at the French Open, including the finals of 2006, 2007 and 2008, Nadal would seem to be a prohibitive favourite once again, but Federer has been so impressive in Paris this year that a 17th Grand Slam title appears possible.

His victory over Novak Djokovic in the semis, ending the Serbian's six-month, 43-match unbeaten run, has already been hailed as one of his best ever.

"Honestly, I feel very well," said Federer. "I think I move very well, I'm never stressed. If there is a ball that you miss, it's just because the other one played it very well, and not because I made a mistake or I played bad tennis on the return, or on my serve.

"That's why I'm very happy at the moment with my game. Is it my best? I don't know."

Sunday will be the eighth time Nadal and Federer have met in a Grand Slam final, two more than any other pairing, but it will be the first time since Nadal's victory in the 2009 Australian Open and Federer's first Slam final anywhere since Australia in 2010.

Last year, Federer made an unusually early exit at the quarter-final stage of both the French Open and Wimbledon, but asked whether he ever doubted he could get back to a Grand Slam final, the world number three responded: "No, not really. I was very close in the US Open [semi-finals] and then I'm playing a final here against Rafa.

"Last year maybe I had a hard time here and in Wimbledon, but sometimes it's hard to play the perfect match. So that's why you have to accept it and continue to work. I've always made it to the quarter-finals or semi-finals, so that's another step forward for me here.

"I made it to the final and I'd like to win it. I know I'll have to play Rafa, but I'll be ready."

Nadal has an incredible record at Roland Garros and looked near his best in the last two rounds against Robin Soderling and Andy Murray, in marked contrast to some earlier matches when he admitted he was not playing well enough to win the title.

"If you compare now to one week ago, it is completely different," said the Majorcan. "Seriously, being in the final of Roland Garros you can't have problems, you cannot have doubts.

"I had to forget about the anxiety or the fears I had something like two weeks ago, and now I have gained more confidence."

The champion is in little doubt as to the challenge Federer will pose on Sunday and the level he must maintain if he is to make it six titles.

"After the victory of yesterday he must feel very confident," said Nadal. "I had a lot of fun watching that match. There's nothing new against Roger, I know what's going to happen.

"I know he's going to play aggressive, for sure. I have to try to play long, to play consistent all the time, and try to be aggressive when I have the chance."

Nadal completely dominated the men's game from this stage 12 months ago until the end of 2010, winning at the French Open and Wimbledon before completing the career Grand Slam with a first US Open victory in September.

This year has been a different story as Djokovic swept all before him until running into Federer on Friday, and the Serbian will still become number one if the Swiss defeats Nadal in the final.

"It's not necessarily the number one player who has to win the tournament," said the Spaniard.

"Each tournament is different, and each tournament has its own challenges. When you're on the court, you know that you might lose as well as win the match."

Federer is familiar with defeat at the hands of Nadal on the Paris clay, including a thrashing in the 2008 final when he won only four games in three sets, and he is not taking anything for granted despite his current form.

"Whoever thinks it's going to be a walk in the park is so wrong," said Federer. "Everybody knows how many times he's gotten me here in Paris.

"I'm happy I never got a letdown just because he has beaten me here, and I [never] stopped believing. That's why I [won] Roland Garros in 2009, which remains one of the most special wins in my career. And I have another opportunity to beat Rafa here and get the French Open title.

"I've got to play some extraordinarily special tennis, I'm aware of that."

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