Federer, Nadal favorites to advance to final


By Matt Wilansky, ESPN.com

No. 1 Roger Federer vs. 4. Nikolay Davydenko

Ostensibly this looks like a mismatch all around. Federer has played and defeated Davydenko in all eight of their career encounters.

Their last was a straight-sets drubbing at the U.S. Open semifinals last year. Then in January at the Australian Open, Federer conceded a set but went on to win in four.

So why will this time be any different?

"Because I feel great and I'm coming into the match to fight and win," Davydenko said. "Nobody feels comfortable vs. Federer. I need to change my tactics against him."

Federer, though, has looked strong, dropping one set in five matches en route to the semifinals. And with a win, Federer would etch his name -- yet again -- in the record book, breaking Jack Crawford's consecutive Grand Slam finals streak. The Swiss has reached the last seven dating back to the '05 Wimbledon.

Federer is keenly aware of this accomplishment, and where it fits within the grand scheme.

"If I can break some records, I mean, that's fantastic," Federer said. "But I would say that I want to stay focused on each match, each set, each point, each game. So it's a matter of details."

How's this for details: Federer has won 38 of his last 39 sets in Grand Slam action. He's also put together a streak of 26 successive matches won in majors, three shy of Rod Laver's Open era record. And with two more wins, he'd become the third player to hold all four major titles at once.

Conversely, the numbers don't bode as well for Davydenko. He's made two slam semifinals -- losing both -- and is 0-10 against world No. 1 players.

Five of his 10 career titles, though, have come on clay. And despite his travails on the grand stage, Davydenko will grind it out until the bitter end.

"It doesn't change anything," Federer said, responding to his opponent's comments. "When you reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament, that's always the case. You have to play against tough opponents."

No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 6 Novak Djokovic

While Ana Ivanovic made history becoming the first Serbian woman to advance to a Grand Slam final, men's No. 6 seed Djokovic will attempt to do the same.

But, it will be an arduous task going against the King of Clay, Nadal, whose road to the semifinal has come without the loss of a set.

And this is an ominous sign for his upcoming opponent.

"I can say I'm playing better this year than last year," Nadal said after thumping good friend Carlos Moya in the quarterfinals. "Not just here. In all tournaments. I improved a little bit of my game, and I'm very happy for that."

Nadal is a win shy of becoming the first player since Jim Courier in 1993 to reach three consecutive French Open finals.

Despite being an overwhelming favorite, the world No. 2 will have to compete with one of the brightest young stars on tour in Djokovic -- the owner of three titles in '07.

"He's improved a lot this year," Nadal said. "He has unbelievable potential. I know I'm going to have a very tough match in the semifinals."

Djokovic has been riding high since back-to-back Masters Series final appearances in March at Indian Wells and Miami.

After Nadal upended him in California, Djokovic returned the favor in Miami, handing the Spaniard a 6-3, 6-4 loss. That match, while a confidence booster, won't necessarily translate into success at the French Open.

"I won against him in Miami. It was a hard court, though, so it's a different surface. I think he plays much better on the clay. You know, he's a different player. It's not the same match. It's not the same player," Djokovic said.

Nadal is a perfect 19-0 at the French Open, a sign of his mental strength as much as his physical tools and clay-court prowess.

On the flip side, Djokovic's foray into the top 10 may be hitting him.

"I still don't see myself as a Grand Slam winner," Djokovic said. "So I'm trying to go step by step, really. And I know I'm in the semifinals, and there are two matches to go for the title."

Nadal and Djokovic have met four times, three this year. The Spaniard holds a 3-1 lead.