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Martin Rogers

Federer's date with destiny just one win away

Busted Racquet

Roger Federer has a unique opportunity on Sunday - the chance to marry a date with destiny with the quashing of his tennis demons.

The world No.2 has chased two magical milestones with ferocious intensity over the past few years, and Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros is the stage where he should finally realize both.

Federer's dream of matching Pete Sampras' record haul of 14 Grand Slam titles is just one match, one victory against a 23rd seed in his first Slam final, away from history.

Just as important to the Swiss superstar would be the completion of his career Grand Slam, at last adding the French title to those he has captured in Australia, at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Years of frustration in Paris, where he has lost three straight finals and one semifinal to Rafael Nadal, can be blasted away with a win against Swedish underdog Robin Soderling, whose miraculous run has captured the public imagination.

Soderling will surely leave the French Open a contented man whether he samples one more success or not. For Federer, only the ultimate triumph will be considered acceptable.

But both men could hold their heads high on Friday evening after prevailing in semifinal blockbusters that tested the nerve and spirit.

Soderling was up first in an epic showdown with Fernando Gonzalez in which he played like a magician for two sets before appearing to let the biggest chance of his career slip away. Yet from 4-1 down in the fifth set, Soderling rallied dramatically to reel off five straight games, producing the sort of spectacular serving and blistering groundstrokes that saw off Rafael Nadal last weekend.

Federer's match with Juan Martin Del Potro supplied just as much raw excitement, and further evidence of the crowd favorite's mentality of a champion.

Del Potro played a truly magnificent match and showed why he is emerging as one of the stars of the game. He burst through the first set, surrendered the second in a tiebreak and steamrolled through the third.

But Federer could not be denied, coming up with some remarkable touches to earn an early break in the decisive fifth set and then another after Del Potro had pulled level. Federer's celebration at the moment of victory was joyous, his relief palpable and the dream lives on.

One more big performance when it matters the most, and destiny will be his.

Yahoo! Sports prediction:
Federer beats Soderling, 7-6, 7-6, 6-3.

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