Novak Djokovic handed 13-times champion Rafael Nadal his third defeat in 16 years and 108 matches at the French Open on Friday to reach the Roland Garros final for the sixth time in an epic showdown that even overcame the country’s COVID-19 curfew.
In their 58th career encounter, Djokovic won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and remains on course to win his 19th title and become the first man in over 50 years to win all four. criticize twice.
Djokovic, the 2016 champion in Paris who also beat Nadal in the 2015 championship, will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final in what will be his 29th Grand Slam match.
Earlier, Tsitsipas became the first Greek to reach the Grand Slam final with a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory over German Alexander Zverev.
Nadal, 35, who would have been the oldest French Open finalist of the modern era, is still linked in the top 20 with Roger Federer.
“It was a great honor to face Rafa in such a great match,” Djokovic said after four hours and 11 minutes of intense work.
“Tonight was my greatest match in Paris.”
This is his second win in eight meetings in Paris with Nadal, a sequence that also included three losses in the finals.
This was Nadal’s first defeat in 14 semi-final matches in the French capital.
“Maybe it wasn’t my best day today, even if I fought,” Nadal said.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I had a great chance. There were some crazy points but there was fatigue.”
Djokovic finished with 50 winners. Nadal committed 55 unforced errors under constant attack.
Djokovic earned two break points in the opening game of the first set that spanned over ten minutes but was unable to convert them.
– curfew –
Nadal made him pay the price, rushing away to lead 5-0 before the top seed climbed onto the board.
Djokovic clung on, taking one break to score 2-5 but Nadal eventually prevailed after one hour on the court even if he needed seven points of the set to advance.
As a sign of the tension of the occasion, Nadal complained to presiding judge Eva Asderaki-Moore that he needed more time to collect the towel.
Djokovic was puzzled by the amount of mud on the baselines.
Old rivals traded the break in the second and third games of the big-hitting set but it was Djokovic who repeated the feat to advance 4-2 before leveling the tie.
Djokovic twice advanced in the third set, but was recovered by Nadal who broke again in the 10th game as the world number one served for the set.
Then Djokovic had to save a point with a cold shot in the 12th half.
Andy Murray tweeted: “You can’t play tennis better than this.
The third set, which lasted 92 minutes, ended with Djokovic in the tiebreak.
In another twist on a dramatic evening, the 5,000 spectators inside Stade Philippe Chatrier were allowed to watch the finale of the match despite it bypassing the 11pm Covid-19 curfew.
“In agreement with the national authorities, the match will end with your presence,” a announcer on the field told the cheering crowd.
Then Nadal broke in the first game of the fourth set but Djokovic tied 2-2 and broke again 4-2.
He finished it on match point two when Nadal shot long and wide.