PARIS (Reuters) - Roger Federer reached a record eighth consecutive grand slam final by overcoming Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko 7-5 7-6 7-6 in a thrilling French Open semi-final on Friday.
World number one Federer bettered the record of seven successive final appearances set by Australian Jack Crawford in the 1930s but was made to work for it.
The elegant 25-year-old Swiss, chasing the only grand slam title to elude him, showed more composure when it mattered to set up a final against defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain, who beat Serbian Novak Djokovic 7-5 6-4 6-2 in the second semi.
“Anything could have happened in this match,” Federer said with a sigh of relief after snatching victory.
“It was tight until the end. I could have lost in three sets but I won. He’s an excellent player and that was a good test for me before the final.”
Fourth seed Davydenko, who failed to advance to his first final of a major event, gave his all but it was not enough. He has now lost all nine of his matches against Federer.
The 26-year-old bowed out by sending a backhand wide on the second match point after just over three hours of high quality tennis.
“It was a pretty tough match, physically and mentally,” Davydenko said. “Because he played fast, I tried to play fast as well but I didn’t have enough power for the entire match and on important points, he was more concentrated than I was. He badly wanted to win.”
Davydenko, who led in all three sets, broke Federer straight away and earned many break points on the top seed’s next service games.
Federer, who looked sluggish at first, underlined his determination to fight back by saving three break points with as many service winners in the seventh game.
In the next game, the Swiss earned his first break opportunity of the match and converted it courtesy of an unforced error from his opponent to level the set at 4-4.
A tiebreak was looming when Davydenko fired a backhand long to drop serve in the 12th game and lose the set after 51 minutes.
The second set was tight until Davydenko broke Federer with a raging backhand winner to move 5-4 up. He then served for the set but Federer raised the level of his game with perfect timing.
A tiebreak was needed, in which Davydenko saved two set points before Federer converted a third with a service winner to take it 7-5.
Davydenko refused to give up and managed another break in the fourth game of the third set. He was 5-3 up when he served for the set but wasted two set points before being broken, again on an unforced error.
The set went to another tiebreak, in which Federer wasted a first match point with a unforced error and saved a break point with an ace before taking it 9-7.
The victory kept alive Federer’s bid to become the third player to hold all four grand slam titles at the same time after Don Budge and Rod Laver.