Rafael Nadal (3) beat Novak Djokovic (1) 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 9-7
Rafael Nadal reached his eighth French Open Final with a truly epic win in a grand slam encounter with world number one Novak Djokovic.
In a match which lasted four hours and 37 minutes, Nadal eventually came out the victor in a tough clash. It’s the first time Nadal has reached a Grand Slam final in a year following a serious knee injury which kept him out of action for seven months.
The Spaniard remains on course for a record 8th crown at Roland Garros. Djokovic lost to the same opponent in last year’s final in Paris, and his search for a French Open title goes on.
"Serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth, I was serving against the wind, so I knew it was going to be a difficult game. I was ready for the fight. In Australia 2012 it was a similar match – today it was me [that won]. That’s the great thing about sport."
World number one Djokovic said: "It’s been an unbelievable match to be part of, but all I can feel now is disappointment. That’s it. I congratulate him, because that’s why he’s a champion.
In sweltering 30 degree heat, Nadal won the early exchanges, clobbering forehands as he broke in the first set with the scores at three games each.
Djokovic would prove to be at his most dangerous when behind, however, stringing together a brilliant four games to level and letting out an almighty roar after one rasping forehand.
Nadal closed the first set 6-4, before dropping the second to the Serb 3-6. Djokovic had called the trainer twice in the set. Nadal’s momentum in the fourth as he swept the set by in 37 minutes, 6-1.
And the Spanish star must have thought victory was in sight after breaking early in the fourth set. However, Djokovic fought back to 4-4, before claiming the set on a tie-break seven points to three, taking the match to a final set decider.
Both players produced brilliant tennis, and the occasional poor miss, and as the games ticked by and tensions rose. Following several missed smashes and complaints to the umpire about the slippery court, his temperament suggested Djokovic was the edgier.
And so it proved as Nadal fired a forehand winner on his way to three match points and Djokovic sent a tired forehand over the baseline. Nadal took the final set 9-7 and booked his place in Sunday’s final.
Nadal has an incredible record on clay, especially at Roland Garros, losing just one of his 59 matches at the major. His only defeat came against Sweden’s Robin Soderling in 2009.
Fellow Spaniard David Ferrer is also through to the final following his crushing of home-hero Wilfred Tsonga, 6-2 7-6 (7-3) 6-2, in the day’s second semi-final.