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Federer, Nadal Anticipate "Special" Final

Paris, France

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is chasing a sixth Roland Garros crown.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will meet for the eighth time in a Grand Slam final when they contest the Roland Garros championship match on Sunday in Paris. Nadal has won five of those matches and leads their overall FedEx ATP Head2Head 16-8.

“I am happy to play against [Federer], because it is always an honour to play against the best player in history. Playing against him always represents something very special,” declared Nadal in his pre-final press conference on Saturday. “I know I have to play at my highest level to have chances to win, because he is playing fantastic. After the victory of yesterday he must feel very confident.”

“It always seems to me that Rafa needs to be in a French Open final to make it special, and I got the match I guess I was hoping for,” said Federer after his extraordinary semi-final win over Novak Djokovic on Friday evening. “After beating Novak, it's in a way a gift that I get the chance, and I'm looking forward to it.”

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It will be the pair’s first meeting in a major final since the 2009 Australian Open, when Nadal prevailed in five sets. They will clash in the Roland Garros title match for the fourth time after Nadal defeated Federer in three successive finals from 2006-2008. In 2008 Federer was handed his worst ever defeat, in terms of games won, as Nadal triumphed 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in the most one-sided Roland Garros final since 1977.

“I'm happy I never got sort of a letdown just because he has beaten me here and just that I never stopped believing,” said Federer. “That's why I got the Roland Garros [title] in 2009, which remains one of my most special wins, really, 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.”

FedererThe 29-year-old Federer is chasing his 17th Grand Slam championship and his first since the 2010 Australian Open (d. Murray).

At the age of 25, Nadal is bidding to equal Bjorn Borg’s record and become just the second man in history to win six titles on the Parisian clay. The Spaniard has a staggering 44-1 record at Roland Garros, winning titles from 2005-2008 and again in 2010; his lone loss came at the hands of Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round.

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“All I know is that I need to play my tennis; to play very well, to strike perfect shots each time, so that I can have all possible opportunities to win and make him realise that it's not going to be easy to play against me.”

Despite Federer’s victory over Djokovic in the semi-finals, Nadal’s position atop the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings remains on the line in Sunday’s final. Nadal will retain the No. 1 spot if he wins, but will be usurped by Djokovic should Federer triumph. 

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