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Federer Snaps Djokovic's Winning Streak; Plays Nadal In Blockbuster Final

Paris, France

Djokovic, Federer© AFP/Getty ImagesRoger Federer beat Novak Djokovic (left) in three hours and 39 minutes in a match that ended at 9:37 p.m. local time.

Third seed and 2009 titlist Roger Federer ended Novak Djokovic's 41-match unbeaten streak in 2011 with a 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) win over the second seed on Friday for a place in the Roland Garros final.

Federer now has a 175-0 record after winning the first two sets of a Grand Slam championship match. The Swiss superstar will next meet his long-time Spanish rival, World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, the five-time champion. Nadal will remain World No. 1 if he beats Federer in Sunday's final. A Federer victory will see Djokovic rise to No. 1 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings for the first time.

 "I really wanted to make it as physical as possible, which I was able to make happen," Federer said of his win, which snapped a three-match losing streak against Djokovic. "I was really happy with the way I played. I thought it was a great match from both sides."

The 29-year-old Federer has advanced to his 23rd Grand Slam championship final (16-6 overall) and his first since winning the 2010 Australian Open (d. Murray). Federer beat Robin Soderling for the 2009 Roland Garros title, having finished runner-up to Nadal in 2006-08. "I have another opportunity to beat Rafa here and get the Roland Garros title," Federer said. "I've got to play some extraordinarily special tennis. I'm aware of that. But I obviously took a huge step today, and hope I can get everything together for the final."

Federer converted just four of 25 break point opportunities against Djokovic. It will be a ratio he'll be looking to improve versus Nadal. In the 2007 final, Federer converted one of 17 opportunities in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss. 

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There were four breaks of serve through the first seven games. The standard of tennis was exceptional in the 70-minute opener. Federer saved two set points at 4-5 through clever service placement. The set was decided by a tie-break. Federer took a 4-2 lead, but two mis-timed forehands took second seed Djokovic to 5-4. But Federer recovered and converted his first set point chance at 6-5 when Djokovic hit a forehand into the net. Federer hit 18 winners to 14 for Djokovic.

Federer opened up a 4-1 lead in the 45-minute second set as he began to win the mental battle. Djokovic, somehow, saved four break points in the sixth game and four set points to hold for 3-5. Federer remained cool on serve, saving one break point with an ace in the next game. When Djokovic hit a backhand into the net on set point, the Serbian could only look up to his coach Marian Vajda and shake his head.

Maybe he knew about Federer's record in winning the first two sets in major play? Certainly, Djokovic looked as if he wanted to snap that streak when Federer's level dipped slightly early in the third set. The World No. 2 took a 3-0 lead by reclaiming control of baseline rallies. He survived two gutsy service holds before clinching the 37-minute set with a hold to love.

With barely one hour of daylight left, the fourth set began. Djokovic fought back from 0/30 at 2-3, just as Federer looked to be hitting peak form again. At 4-4, Federer could not hit a first delivery into court. Finally on the 14th point of the game, Djokovic hit a deep return and Federer mis-timed a forehand into the net. The momentum switched back to Federer when he broke back for 5-5. Federer saved two break points in an edgy 11th game. Both players received a standing ovation as they walked to their chair.

Djokovic cancelled out Federer's early advantage in the tie-break. But from 3-3, Federer won three straight points including two aces. Djokovic saved two match points, but Federer closed out his 219th win at a major championship (219-31) with his 18th ace of the match at 9:37 p.m. local time. He now leads Djokovic 14-9 overall. "He played really good in the important moments," assessed Djokovic. "I congratulate him for a great performance. He really played well. We were, I think, part of a very good match, and it feels bad losing."

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Federer hit 48 winners. Djokovic, who had been unbeaten in 43 matches since the Davis Cup final in December 2010, struck 40 winners including seven aces. He committed 41 unforced errors to 46 for Federer, who was the last player to beat Djokovic at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in November 2010.

Djokovic had been bidding to become the first man since Jim Courier in 1992 to win back-to-back titles at the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

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