PARIS — Chants of "Ro-ger! Ro-ger!" from 15,000 or so fans were hushing as Roger Federer stepped to the baseline to serve Friday — one point from returning to the French Open final and ending Novak Djokovic's win streak at 43.
Federer rocked back and whipped an ace for a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory. Then he wagged his right index finger, as if telling the world, "I'm still No. 1!"
So what if the world ranking says otherwise? This was Federer, 29, showing he still has what it takes.
He will go for his 17th Grand Slam title and second at Roland Garros on Sunday against Rafael Nadal. The five-time French champ defeated Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 to improve to 44-1 at the clay major.
"Almost feels, somewhat, like I've won the tournament, which is not the case," said Federer, ranked No. 3 in the world. "Silverware is still out there to be won, and I'm looking forward to the match with Rafa."
It will be their fifth meeting — and fourth final — in Paris since 2005. Nadal is 4-0, part of his 16-8 overall lead.
A sixth French Open title would tie Nadal with Bjorn Borg for the most ever.
"I don't think about that," said Nadal, who turned 25 on Friday. "A lot of respect for the great Bjorn, but I … focus on (trying) to play well. For me, it is much more important to win Roland Garros than equal Bjorn."
Djokovic, No. 2 in the world, entered 41-0 in 2011 and unbeaten since losing to Federer in late November. He won his second major at the Australian Open in January and arrived in Paris as a co-favorite with Nadal thanks, in part, to having beaten the Spaniard in two finals on clay in May.
"It had to end somewhere," said Djokovic, who would have moved up to No. 1 by beating Federer but still can do so if Federer wins Sunday. "Best five months of my life, my tennis career. I cannot complain. It was definitely an incredible period."
It was at this tournament a year ago that Federer lost to Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals, ending his streak of reaching the semifinals at a record 23 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. A month later, Federer lost in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Semifinal exits followed at the U.S. Open and Australian Open, both against Djokovic.
Friday, Federer seemed in control after winning the first two sets. After all, he entered 174-0 when doing so in a Grand Slam match.
Djokovic, though, won the third, the only set Federer has dropped in the tournament, and broke to lead 5-4 in the fourth. But Federer broke right back and saved two break points in the next game. He took a 6-3 lead in the tiebreaker. And after Djokovic served — and won — the next two points, Federer's 18th ace of the day ended it.
"Mental toughness in important moments," said Djokovic, who fell one win shy of tying John McEnroe's record 42-0 start in 1984. "That's what makes him a big champion."
Factoring in the setting, atmosphere and players' performances, a reporter asked Federer if this might be the best match since his 9-7 fifth-set loss to Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final. Federer recoiled.
"I haven't disappeared since. I've played some great matches since, and I (made) some sacrifices. I wasn't lying on the beach," he said. "So I'm pretty happy that I made that effort over the years and that when it really counts, I'm at the big occasion. (Friday) was one of those moments."
In the first semifinal, Nadal wasn't perfect, getting broken three times. But he was consistent enough to take care of Murray's defensive tactics.
"I'm really happy to be playing in the final for one of the most important tournaments in the world on clay," said Nadal, who saved 15 of 18 break points and all six in the third set. "So I have all the reasons to be satisfied."