Novak Djokovic is treating Friday's French Open semifinal against Rafael Nadal with the respect it deserves, approaching the match as if it were a Roland Garros final.
“I look forward to it,” said the top seed after beating Tommy Haas for his final-four spot.
“It’s not the first time I’m playing him, we’ve played over 30 times. We know each other’s game really well. And we are both in good form. This is the biggest match-up of our Roland Garros 2013 campaign for both me and him.”
After beating Nadal in the Monte Carlo final six weeks ago but losing to Spain’s king of clay in a 2012 Paris semi, Djokovic approaches the showdown with confidence, even if he stands 15-19 in the series that began seven years ago.
“It’s the small details and few points [that] can decide a winner, and that’s why I need to be very disciplined and focused in order to get emotionally, physically and mentally ready for that match.”
Djokovic is playing in his 12th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal and wants to make the most of it.
“Comparing to Roger [Federer, who was 35 in a row until he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga this week], maybe it’s not as good. But I’m glad that I have been playing very consistent and always playing my best tennis on the Grand Slams, because that’s what I want.”
The other semifinal is likely to attract even greater home interest, as Tsonga continues his bid to become the first Frenchman to win the home title since Yannick Noah 30 years ago. The Swiss-based sixth seed will face off against Spain’s David Ferrer, seeded fourth and playing in his fifth Grand Slam semi from his last seven majors. Ferrer leads the series 2-1, winning their only clay meeting in Rome three years ago.
“David is a very good player, who has beaten me few times,” said Tsonga. “I expect a tough match, but I’m in good shape. I’ll just do my best, you know, and see how it goes. I’m coming on the court with a lot of purpose and with 100 percent of my possibilities.”
The Frenchman is ignoring the growing home pressure for a French champion. “Everybody’s expecting a lot from me since the beginning of this tournament. I’m used to it.”
Djokovic derives a lot of confidence from Monte Carlo.
“That is something that can maybe give me that mental edge when I step onto the court, knowing I already won against him on clay this season, knowing I can do it,” he said. “Not many players in last 10 years have won against him on this surface, he’s been the most dominant player in the history of this sport on clay.”
Nadal said he certainly won’t be dwelling on Monte Carlo. “Every match has a different history,” he said. “When I play here we’re in Roland Garros; we’re not in Monte Carlo.”