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It’s Federer vs Nadal yet again

The top-seeded Swiss overcomes a strong challenge from Monfils

— PHOTO: AFP

HISTORY BeckonS: Rafael Nadal strikes a Borg-like pose after earning a passage to the final, where he will attempt to emulate the great Swede’s record of four consecutive titles.

PARIS: Twice Roger Federer took an awkward spill, leaving the regal champion sprawled on the clay.

The French Open can be humbling, as Federer well knows, but he’ll try again for his first Roland Garros title against nemesis Rafael Nadal on Sunday.

The top-ranked Federer endured some messy moments in the semifinal. Knocked down but not out, he wiped off the dirt and beat unseeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 here on Friday.

Nadal’s earlier semifinal was close only by his standards: he lost 12 games and nearly lost a set. The king of clay beat the third-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3).

Nadal had lost only three games in each of his previous two matches. He’s one win from becoming the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1981 to win four consecutive French Open titles, while Federer seeks the only Grand Slam title he has yet to win.

“It is special against Federer,” Nadal said. “I will try and face history.”

Nervous

Federer struggled at times against Monfils, especially in the final game of the second set, when he looked nervous and mishit a forehand on the final shot.

Scrambling rallies twice sent Federer tumbling, while Monfils fell at least four times. Federer moved forward at every opportunity, won 49 of 64 points at the net — a lot on clay — and erased 10 of Monfils’s 13 break-point chances.

Nadal won’t be so easily deterred. For the fourth consecutive year in Paris, Federer seeks to become the sixth man to have won all four Grand Slam events. Nadal defeated him in the semifinals in 2005, and in the final in 2006 and 2007.

This year, Nadal appears more dominant than ever. He eliminated Djokovic from the tournament for the third consecutive year and improved to 27-0 at Roland Garros.

Borg watched from the first row behind the baseline and rose with the rest of the crowd to applaud when Nadal completed his latest victory. — AP

THE RESULTS

Prefix denotes seeding

Men: Semifinals: 2-Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt 3-Novak Djokovic (Srb) 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3); 1-Roger Federer (Sui) bt Gael Monfils (Fra) 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

Mixed doubles: Final: 3-Victoria Azarenka (Bel) & Bob Bryan (USA) bt 1-Katarina Srebotnik (Slo) & Nenad Zimonjic (Srb) 6-2, 7-6(4).

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