|Nadal improved his record on the clay in Paris to 44-1 [AFP]
Birthday boy and crowd favourite Rafael Nadal moved to within one win of equalling Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open titles with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 semi-final win over Britain's Andy Murray on Friday.
Reaching his sixth final in seven years at Roland Garros the top-ranked Spaniard struggled at times with his serve but his consistent play overpowered the three time Grand Slam runner-up.
In the other semi-final a triumphant Roger Federer ended Novak Djokovic's 41-match winning streak with a thrilling 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 victory.
Serbian second seed Djokovic went off the rails as the third-seeded Federer raised his game to new heights to reach his fifth final at Roland Garros, and his first Grand-Slam final since last year's Australian Open.
"For me it's a dream to be back in the final,'' Nadal said after his early match against Murray.
"Both opponents will be very, very, very difficult for me and for everybody.''
Murray was playing his first French Open semi-final in his fifth campaign in Paris and had lingering doubts over the right ankle he turned in his third round defeat of Michael Berrer.
The first four games were closely fought and took 28 minutes to complete but by the end of them Nadal had taken a 3-1 lead after Murray failed to convert the three break points he had.
Nadal turned the screw to take a 5-1 lead but played an uncustomary sloppy game when serving for the set as Murray got back one of the service breaks.
He had to save two break points two games later, but dug deep to take the opening set 6-4 in 62 minutes, leaving the Herculean task facing Murray looking even tougher.
Still it was Murray who was mostly dominating the rallies going into the second set as he dragged Nadal about from side to side with his angled drives from the baseline.
But the Spaniard typically flung up his defences and it was Murray who ceded serve first with an error-strewn fifth game.
A Nadal double fault gave Murray the break back to level at 3-3, and he rattled the Spaniard further in the following game before double-faulting himself on game point to allow Nadal to break again.
Murray made it four breaks in a row to level at 4-4, but despite some heroic resistance against a rampaging Nadal, he dropped serve again in the 11th game and Nadal served out for a two sets lead.
That seemed to break Murray's spirit and after dropping his serve to open the third set there was no way back for him as Nadal stormed through to seal the win.
Federer recovered from a break down in the opening set, which he bagged by winning the tiebreak 7-5.
The 2009 champion, rode the momentum to break for 3-1 in the second set, which he won after saving a break point in the ninth game with an ace.
With his back to the wall, Djokovic, who would have equalled John McEnroe's 1984 record of 42 wins since the start of a season and become world number one had he reached the final, pulled a set back after snatching Federer's serve in the second game.
Federer, however, left the crowd in awe with a superb passing backhand down the line, and stunned his opponent with a second-serve ace as the fourth set was thrown into a twilight shootout which the Swiss won 7-5 with an ace.
On Saturday, defending champion Francesca Schiavone will face Li Na in the women's final.