June 3rd, 2011
09:59 PM ET

Can Federer stop Nadal equaling Borg's record?

Roger Federer is hoping to beat Rafael Nadal at the French Open for the first time in Sunday's final. (AFP/Getty Images)
Roger Federer is hoping to beat Rafael Nadal at the French Open for the first time in Sunday's final. (AFP/Getty Images)

It’s been a pretty awful week in sports, with corruption, match-fixing and bribery claims and counter-claims flying every which way, but the latter stages of the French Open have restored my faith in the world we know and love.

The top four male tennis players have shown a gulf in class once again. After a very average first week, in relative terms, world No. 1 Rafa Nadal has got better and better as he bids to equal Bjorn Borg's record of six Roland Garros titles,.

His straight-sets semifinal win over Andy Murray showed that the Spaniard is just as good as ever, despite certainly being overshadowed this year by Novak Djokovic.

I would bet the Serb would give back every single win and tournament title in 2011 (even the Australian Open, because he’s won it before) to have the French Open trophy in his hands. The majors are what matter to the top players, and winning all four is the holy grail.

Both Rafa and Roger Federer have managed it, and both men want more. The Swiss, who ended Djokovic’s invincibility this year in a four-set semifinal thriller, was completely written off heading into Paris and obviously enjoyed the lack of attention as he made it to the last four without losing a set.

It’s no secret that he is my favorite player. I simply love the way he plays the game and the way he conducts himself both on and off the court. He is a fantastic ambassador for tennis and a trailblazer because his younger rivals are just as classy.

Some experts have announced that Roger is a spent force at the age of 29 – a claim which I find shortsighted and disrespectful. Certainly, he hasn’t been as dominant as he once was, but perhaps it’s because the others have upped their levels, rather than his has dropped.

His coach Paul Annacone says that Roger’s desire and work-ethic are first class, and I truly believe there is much life in the old dog yet! Let’s just say that judging from Friday’s performance, the Fat Lady hasn’t started even warming up yet!

As for the women’s tournament, well it’s been strange but enjoyable. Both Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters went out early and Vera Zvonareva soon followed, which left Victoria Azarenka as the highest seed remaining.

She was out-done by Li Na, who you’ll recall also reached this year’s Australian Open title. The Chinese player has bags of talent and personality and will thrill a billion people if she claims her first major. Her much-maligned husband (in a funny way) has been replaced as her coach by Michael Mortensen, whom she has credited with her recent success.

As for her opponent, Francesca Schiavone, well she continues to be an advertisement for the underdog. No-one in their right minds picked her to win last year’s French Open, and the Italian veteran has given herself the chance of defending the title after coming back from the verge of defeat to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarterfinals.

She is fantastic to watch as she plays with all guns blazing and has every single shot in the book – similar to four-time French Open winner Justine Henin, sadly now retired for a second time.

Maria Sharapova also had a great tournament, and though she fell to Li in the semis the Russian gave evidence that she’ll be a major threat at Wimbledon, which is only a few short weeks away. I love this time of year!

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Filed under:  Tennis
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Eric

    What an amazing run for Djokovic.He certainly deserves to be no 1.He has proved what an outstanding player he is.If he had to lose o anyone I am glad it was Federer.Like you,Candy,I am a great admirer of R.F. Now the question is-can he beat Nadal in the final???

    June 3, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  2. alehandro

    So many people were jumping on the bandwagon and proclaiming that the Federer/Nadal era was over. Djokovic had an execellent run, and 43 straight wins was a great achievement, but the media was still too quick to anoint him as the "man to beat" at Roland Garros. That showed a lack of respect for two players, at least one of whom had featured in the last six French Open finals. Thankfully, the "experts" who took the safe route by making Djokovic the favorite got it wrong, and we can now look forward to another potential Federer-Nadal classic, which has a ring to it like no other match-up in tennis.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  3. Don Heath

    Everything that I have heard tells me that Federer is a wonderful ambassador for tennis and all sport. Nothing against his opponents but I wish him all success.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Reply
  4. boris

    Great mens semi-finals and the final might be a classic. Good article.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:01 am | Reply
  5. todd saed

    a leap of joy from the heart, waking to this news, boris says might be classic, already is, and so much to look forward to with Djokovic pushing the greats at Wimbledon, Borg once beat Rod Laver, Laver the only two time Grand Slam holder, those matches on the cusps of eras have lots to say about comparing generations, younger generations who tend to me more technophile think the rackets and depth make current players better, Bobby Riggs would beat good players with a broom, and Pancho Gonzalez played an almost six hour match at age forty to get to the semis at Wimbledon. He is my choice for GOAT,greatest player ever, and many others choose him, Collins, COnnors, ..
    So the numbers of great players are more, but acknowledgment can be given to those top few from every era who were anybodies equal, The game has not really changed since Bill TIlden wrote the classic tennis text book in the 20s. Ken Rosewall would give his earnings to other players so they would have money for food on the pro tour in the 50s, which could only support about ten players. So the game has come far, and the future is limitless as in all things. The larger issue of balancing sportsmanship with competitiveness to make a role model for the young, shines forth with Nadal, Federer, and Djokovicand those in the past , Laver, Rosewall, and the Aussies. THERE IS a book , Sexual Tennis for Yogis at lulu.com that explores tennis in the future played on the moon with low gravity and a five acre court, one of the limitless possibllities, other dimesnions a la the Large Hadron collider, or super surfaces that are soft on the legs like grass, even bouncing like hard court, but those might just be for fantasy, nothing really broken to fix in tennis history, so more of the same but better, seems like sports are life savers these days, hope it is not all just bread and circuses

    June 4, 2011 at 2:20 am | Reply
  6. todd saed

    actually wood rackets, soft courts, and smaller schedules would prevent all those injuries that detract from the game. And more money to the lower ranked and developing players, less military spending in every country especially the US, would make the world a playground, work and play merging as Nature, God, the universe, and Tao intended.

    June 4, 2011 at 2:31 am | Reply
  7. Sandra

    Would love to see Schiavone win again, she is fun to watch, and wouldn't it just be an amazing achievement.
    The men's final will be exciting for sure – a classic maybe – I am going to feel sorry for whoever loses, as much as I will applaud the winner, 2 great players. Djokovic has played superbly this year, I feel a little for him, but happy to have a Rafa-Fed final! Can't wait for Wimbledon, then Tour de France, keeps me sane during the summer holidays 🙂

    June 4, 2011 at 2:46 am | Reply
  8. hynix

    I was kinda hoping it would be Rafa/Novak match in the final, not that I hate Roger or anything, actually he's one of my most favorites of all time ... 🙂

    June 4, 2011 at 3:26 am | Reply
  9. Mai

    Although I have so many favourite players in the tennis circuit, my heart seems to go with Federer each time he plays. But with a very tight semi-final win over Djokovic, it shows that a final aganist Nadal will be dynamic hard work. I wish to see him lift the RG trophy after an exciting win over Nadal. Fingers crossed for Sunday's final!

    June 4, 2011 at 3:26 am | Reply
  10. Normans Carpark

    Good to see the old fellas back, Nadal will be triumphant on the day.

    June 4, 2011 at 4:16 am | Reply
  11. Georges Rouget

    Is it me7 or is odd that the Djokovics started their own tournament, faming it, The Novak Djokovic Open.

    June 4, 2011 at 5:17 am | Reply
  12. clark

    federer -- the dark horse!!

    go go go fed, i would love that number 17!!!

    June 4, 2011 at 6:46 am | Reply
  13. Nick

    With all recpect, Djokovic was better player but Federer was better server and had a big portion of luck. But that is a game, that is why it is so interesting...

    June 4, 2011 at 7:14 am | Reply
  14. yusuf abdulmajid

    The men"s final is really going to be a great one and the best of 2011.

    June 4, 2011 at 7:22 am | Reply
  15. Nick

    I really like how this article started out, but then the entire 2nd half has nothing to do with the matchup between Federer and Nadal. There was absolutely 0 analyzation of the coming match beyond saying that it will be a great match, and then it digresses to discuss a matchup in women's tennis. Poorly done.

    June 4, 2011 at 7:22 am | Reply
  16. Sachiko

    The way Li and Schiavone reach final means "a mud-wall deads a cannon-bullet", most intriguing aspect of clay court. Skillful artifice could beat power and speed, plus their mentality is pretty amazing, Li kept her nerve against dangerous Azarenka & Sharapova, Schiavone made incredible comeback after deeply trailing Pavlyuchenkova. I guess many twits and turns in long career have made up what they are today, late-bloomer is always one beauty of sport. Final match will be Li's piquant rising shot versus Schiavone's grinding spin, must be fun to watch.

    As for men's side, before welcome legendary final I want to give a curtain call for Djokovic, whose winning streak came to end but his pretty incredible run this year itself is already great, shouldn't be faded with only one loss ,even if it was at grand slam semifinal and made by king Roger Federer.

    June 4, 2011 at 8:10 am | Reply
  17. Borg

    We can equate with a Classic movie with a fanastic script, Roger Ferr.
    What a craft with which shots are played.Unparrallel.But doubt whether the killing instinct misses or not in him. He is always enjoying the game
    in win or in loss.He is the champion of champions all time

    June 4, 2011 at 8:51 am | Reply
  18. jorgen friis

    win or lose, the fact he has come this far on a surface that isnt "his" is a testament to his craftsmanship, it will certainly go a long way to dispel any doubts many people may have about Roger's desire and ambitions
    to carry on winning and to remain the best. He is, as you say, a fantastic ambassador for tennis both on, watching him play what can you say, and off the court. I wish him best of luck in the final and I shall be looking forward to see him play and winning many more matches. All the best,

    June 4, 2011 at 8:56 am | Reply
  19. Sandro Graf

    I'm a very big fan of Roger Federer. However, it was right to say that Djokovic is the man to beat (Djokovic's momentum was magic) at this year's Roland Garros... it's just that Roger proved to be exactly that man to beat the Serb! I truly believe that Roger has vital chance to stop Nadal's run to equal Borg's record.

    June 4, 2011 at 9:00 am | Reply
  20. pat zuckerman

    GREAT ARTICLE – agree with all your sentiments – especially tas R.F. is the GENTLEMAN of tennis – plays the MOST beautiful classical carefree game – a pleasure to watch and a shining example for all future players.

    June 4, 2011 at 10:19 am | Reply
  21. Nostromo45

    Thoroughly concur with the article and the comments above. Great tennis from superb players, with high-quality sportsmanship and respect for each other. Elsewhere on CNN – yesterday – I posted that if anybody could stop Djokovic he would have to be Roger Federer, because I honestly doubt that Rafael Nadal could do so.
    These three men have upped their game to new levels, guaranteeing a great Roland Garros tournament this year.
    Way to go, Roger! Can't wait for ths new duel between you and Rafa. The funny thing is, I don't mind who wins: a great match, thrilling tennis, exquisite, nail-biting, guaranteed.
    Ah, go for it Li Na, I wish you all the best this afternoon!

    June 4, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
  22. Georg

    Finally, Federer has shown that he's not dead yet. Surely, another win at the french open would be great but what matters most to me is the fact that he ended djokovic' run eventually.

    June 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Reply
  23. Pradeep

    Until the rise of Novak this year, I would Cry if Roger Lost.
    Seeing Novak's 4 win ,over all time Clay Court great Rafa, I wished
    Novak to Win at Roland Garros & had kind of resigned from wishing Roger a win each time he played. My prediction was that Novak would win the Semi with the final score of 7-5;6-2;6-4

    But the way Roger served , the kind of rising spins he returned & above all the Way he served.....I had to say once again " Games All Time Best Must Win "

    I am sure Novak, though must have been disappointed, will be rememberd for having given us One Of The Finest Game Ever Played at Roland Garros

    June 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  24. Alex

    Federer will beat Nadal in 5 sets.

    June 4, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Reply
  25. Ahsan K.

    Excellent article. There is no question in my find that Nadal will be champ. He is playing the best tennis of his life, and no one can beat him at this point., just watch.

    June 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  26. Sandra

    If Federer wins – Djokovic will become Num. 1 player 🙂 Rightful so.

    June 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Reply
  27. Teslic ( RS )

    Nothing to say but congrats Federer on fantastic play. I am a fan of Novak but this time RF outclassed him. I am sure that Novak has learned something from this match and surely he will be no 1. in a time. Sadly I have to say that RF does not have any chance against Nadal, he can not repeat another performance like yesterday and Nadals game does not suits him at all. Heads up Nole, you were great for half a year and your streak has become part of the tennis history.... We are proud of you.

    June 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  28. Jorge

    I think Roger will and can beat Nadal again.. Because Federer is very experienced player, that he'll beat him! I look forward to the final tomorrow! Let's hope it will be a very nice final! Go Roger Federer, you're the best !! BEAT HIM.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Reply
  29. Ochgottnyttar

    Federer doesn't play tennis, he personifies tennis.

    June 5, 2011 at 12:10 am | Reply
  30. TChai

    Rog, all your tactics are so excellent except for one FLAW: unforced error temptation.
    Please don't go into it, especially against Nadal who is a perfectionist, you need to be not less!
    So please stop those stupid risky plays like many dropshots you recently played against Novak; you were lucky you know to win on that day otherwise..............?
    Finally, important keyword here is: PATIENCE which means avoiding all 'stupid' risky shots. C'mon, GO WIN IT ON SUNDAY, God bless you Rog.

    June 5, 2011 at 2:45 am | Reply
  31. Pradeep bogati

    My hero ,RF, will certainly win!

    June 5, 2011 at 3:14 am | Reply
  32. May

    I noticed that Roger had done his homework well before last beating Novak.
    This time not only that will do but also wise/extremely careful playing on the court.
    Roger must reduce his unforced errors to the very minimum, then he'll win impressively. I'd love most to see him WIN today!

    June 5, 2011 at 4:25 am | Reply
  33. HelloCNN

    I have been watching Federer for many years and he is the best one in tennis. The fact of the matter is that he is very talented and gifted in playing tennis. In fact, he is simple and humble person that I had ever seen in my lives compared to the other players. Yeah! the world knows that Federer has potential. I think he is the master of the tennis that the world has ever known, and he is gonna show one more to the world by beating Nadal so that he shall be remember for ever and ever as the master of the tennis. I would love to see this humble person retain his position as no 1 again. Yeah! the world have known his for many years as no 1 and is gonna finished his playee as no 1 by beating Nadal. It is gonna be very interestiong to watch this games again. I wish you good luck, Federer!

    June 5, 2011 at 11:38 am | Reply
  34. Buster

    Actually Pancho Gonzales and Jack Kramer started the tennis tour,
    so no one remembers the latter now. They played at night, and four others joined them . In those days, there were wooden rackets, much
    smaller, and the balls were not titanium, which accounts for the speed
    of the balls. Nadal should win today, but Federer is a great player.
    Do not forget Arthur Ashe, who died of aids, gotten from a transfusion.

    June 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  35. Yehya

    Federer started very good today by he failed to keep the ritm bow it is raing i beleive it is going to be Nadal once more and as usual kind of complex for federer I do beleive that he is a better player

    June 5, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  36. muna

    federer i which good luck

    June 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  37. iyke 4rm Nigeria

    Roger is tennis and tennis is Roger..can't imagine who will be like him he eventually retired.Novak,excellent player though

    June 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Reply
  38. rramirez65

    Finaly won Nadal!!!, congratulations!!

    June 5, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  39. agus

    VIVA ESPAÑA VIVA EL REYLA ORDEN Y LA LEY !!!!! spains rafa adal nº1 in the world beats federer in roland garros final. i comment this coz this web page is retarded and didnt still put this news up SPAIN

    June 5, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  40. mamama

    In deed, Federer is the best of all time

    June 6, 2011 at 10:17 am | Reply
  41. Name*kenneth. I

    I see roger on top com friday.

    June 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  42. fedexxfan

    everthing will fine- Fedex will be again N0 1.

    Maria from Oslo

    August 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Reply

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