Federer emerged from the shadows of Novak Djokovic's yearlong winning streak and Nadal's quest for a record-tying sixth French Open title with a stirring four-set victory over Djokovic in Friday's semifinals.
Djokovic had won all 41 of his matches going into the French Open semifinals and had claimed the Australian Open and six other tournament titles along the way. But Federer came away Friday with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory.
That put the third-seeded Federer into the finals at Roland Garros for the fifth time. He won the event in 2009, completing the career Grand Slam. The first three finals appearances ended in losses to Nadal, who is 44-1 overall at the French Open with tiles in 2005, '06, '07, 08 and '10. Only Bjorn Borg, who won six times, has more French Open titles in the Open Era.
"I have another opportunity to beat Rafa here and get the Roland Garros title," Federer said Friday. "I've got to play some extraordinarily special tennis. I'm aware of that. But I obviously took a huge step today and hope I can get everything together for the final."
Federer has lost just one set during the tournament. Nadal has lost two -- both in the first round when he needed five sets to get by John Isner. He earned his finals berth Friday with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Andy Murray.
Nadal owns a 16-8 -- 11-2 on clay -- series advantage over Federer. He has nine Grand Slam titles, which is fourth best in the Open Era. The record is 16, held by Federer.
If he needs more incentive to win Sunday, only a victory keeps him ahead of Djokovic in the world rankings. If Federer takes the French Open title, Djokovic will take over the top spot Monday. That would mark the first time the No. 1 position won't have been held by either Federer or Nadal since Feb. 2, 2004.