Federer appeared to feel that way, too, particularly after Djokovic broke him four times in the second set.
At the start of that set, Federer actually appeared to get going. He broke to go ahead 1-0 in a game that featured a particularly compelling, 38-stroke point. Federer hit a drop shot that Djokovic slid and stretched to get, the ball an inch or so off the ground; Federer replied with a lob that sent Djokovic sprinting to the baseline for a no-look, back-to-the-net, between-the-legs passing shot; Federer knocked home a volley winner. Djokovic, chest heaving, smiled as he went to towel off.
A year ago in the French Open semifinals, Federer snapped Djokovic's 43-match winning streak in a four-set thriller. On Friday, Vajda explained afterward, Djokovic was determined to play "extremely patient ... not rushing."
Increasingly confounded by his opponent and the swirling wind, Federer made a very un-Federer-like 46 unforced errors. Djokovic made 17.
"I was struggling to sort of keep the ball in play," said Federer, who is 30 and nearly 2½ years removed from his most recent major championship. "When you're down two sets to love against Novak, it's not the same match anymore. He goes for broke and there is no more fear."
Asked to size up Sunday's final, Federer didn't hesitate.
"I obviously pick Rafa," Federer said. "I think he's the overwhelming favorite."
If Djokovic wins his first French Open final, he will join Don Budge in 1938, and Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969, as winners of four Grand Slam trophies in succession. Budge and Laver went 4 for 4 within a calendar year each time.
Federer twice came close to doing what Djokovic hopes to accomplish: In 2006 and 2007, Federer entered the French Open final needing one win for a fourth consecutive major title. Federer's opponent each time? Nadal, naturally.
One significant difference: Federer is 10-18 against Nadal, including 2-6 in Grand Slam finals; Djokovic is 14-18 overall against Nadal, but 3-1 in Grand Slam finals.
Djokovic won all six matches he played against Nadal in 2011, then made it seven straight with their 5-hour, 53-minute epic final at the Australian Open. Nadal, though, has won their two meetings since, both on clay in May.
"There's a lot on the line. It always is, when you're playing finals of a Grand Slam," Djokovic said. "Considering the matches that we played against each other in last 15 months, we expect another emotional match, another big challenge for both of us, fighting for one of the four biggest titles in our sport."
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