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Djokovic takes on Nadal in titanic clash

The French Open showdown between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic might lack some sizzle because it’s a semifinal and not the final. Still, they both have more than enough motivation to make the match a memorable one. Seven-time champion Nadal vs. No. 1-ranked Djokovic carries the heft of a final, even if both players need two more victories to claim the championship.

Nadal bids to become the first man to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam event, while Djokovic seeks the only major title he has yet to win for a career Grand Slam. One of them will go away disappointed on Friday, when they meet for the 35th time. Both are mindful of the match as only the means to an end. ‘If you win, you didn’t win anything yet,’ Nadal said. ‘It’s not the final; it’s the semifinals. You are not playing a match for a title. You are just playing a match to be in the final. So it’s a big difference.’

For partisan Parisians, Nadal-Djokovic might not even qualify as the main attraction. Popular Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is trying to become the first Frenchman in 30 years to win the Roland Garros title, and he’ll play Spaniard David Ferrer in the other semifinal. Facing the king of clay, Djokovic finds himself in the rare role of underdog, while Nadal bristled at the suggestion he’s the favourite. ‘I don’t care at all,’ he said. ‘Frankly, what words could I find to tell you? I mean, what else can I say? I don’t give a damn about it.’ Nadal’s record at Roland Garros stands 57-1.

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