Djokovic and Nadal set up blockbuster semifinal in Paris

Story highlights

  • Djokovic and Nadal set up mouthwatering semifinal with straight set victories in quarters
  • Their semifinal is a repeat of last year's final, which Nadal won
  • Sharapova rallies from first-set whitewash to beat Jankovic and earn semi clash with Azarenka
It was the final last year and many tennis fans wish it was this year's finale as well but world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and seven-time champion Rafael Nadal have at least booked their clash in the French Open semifinal - and the Serb knows what's coming his way.
"I have a big fight in front of me and I'm ready for it," he told reporters after defeating German 12th seed Tommy Haas 6-3 7-6 7-5 to reach his 12th straight grand slam semifinal.
"I know this is the biggest challenge for me at Roland Garros - no doubt about it. So of course I was satisfied today to win in three sets and not stay on the court too long.
"Regardless if I play Rafa or somebody else, it's the same mindset. But I need that intensity from the start," added the six-time grand slam champion.
Third seed Nadal made his way into the last four when dropping just six games in a comprehensive 6-2 6-3 6-1 victory over Swiss ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka.
The semifinal has all the makings of a classic with Nadal boasting his remarkable record of 57 victories and just one defeat at Roland Garros - while Djokovic is fixated on winning the French Open in memory of his first coach.
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Following the death of Jelena Gencic on Saturday, a man who will complete a career grand slam by winning the French Open said he needs to win the tournament "in her honor".
His meeting with the Spaniard will be the duo's 35th career clash, with Nadal leading 19-15 (largely thanks to a 12-3 record on clay) but Djokovic winning their last encounter when they met in Monte Carlo in April.
It is the first time they have met ahead of the final of a grand slam since the French Open semifinals of 2008, which Nadal won in straight sets.
The 11-time grand slam winner will take to the court full of confidence following his display against Wawrinka, one that continued his steady improvement in the tournament after a slow start.
"I'm happy the way that I played today especially. It was my best match on the tournament without any doubt," stated Nadal, seeded third because of the number of games he missed last year with injury.
"I said I need to make a change. I was confident that I can do it and I did. So now I am in the semifinals, three matches in a row without losing a set. The last two matches, I only lost one [game on] serve.
"That's starting to be very positive numbers. Only numbers, but most important thing at the end is the feeling, and the feeling is completely different. If I was not happy five days ago about my level, today I say I am happy that I am in the semifinals."
Nadal is bidding to become the first man in history to win the same grand slam trophy on eight separate occasions.
The other semifinal in the men's singles sees Jo-Wilfried Tsonga continue his bid to become the first local champion in 30 years as the Frenchman takes on Spain's David Ferrer.
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The women's last four is also known after Maria Sharapova rallied from a set down to beat Serbia's 18th seed Jelena Jankovic and set up a semifinal clash with Victoria Azarenka.
The Belarus star, whose two grand slam triumphs came at the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, saw off former doubles partner Maria Kirilenko in a relatively comfortable 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 win.
No such luxury for the defending champion who lost the opening set of a grand slam 6-0 for the first time in her career but rallied early in the second set en route to a stirring 0-6 6-4 6-3 triumph. #
It was the first time the Russian had ever come back after losing an opening set in such fashion.
"I started the match with a large number of unforced errors and her playing really well, smart, doing the right things, being consistent," said the second seed. "It was really the opposite for me.
"So I was really happy I was able to win the first two games of the second set. That was really important. You know, at least give her something to think about - she was a bit in cruise control for a long period of time."
"No matter how many errors I made or how disappointed I was with the way I started the match, I knew I could still create chances out there; obviously taking them is another question.
"It was just a game at a time. Obviously the third set was still extremely tough. But I was happy with it."
Thursday's other semifinal pits world No. 1 Serena Williams, seeking a first French Open title since 2003 and only her second overall, against Italy's Sara Errani, who lost last year's final to Sharapova.