Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal in thriller to reach French Open final

The men’s world No. 1 became the first player to defeat the “King of Clay” in the semi-finals of Roland Garros and also the first player to beat Nadal at the French Open after skipping the first set.

After a stormy start when Nadal took a 5-0 lead in the first set, Djokovic has regrouped and continues to deliver a level of tennis with power and finesse in his stroke play.

Djokovic had 50 winners, while Nadal committed 55 non-compulsory fouls as he struggled visibly in fitness in the closing stages.

However, Djokovic fully deserved the victory over Philippe-Chatrier, a surface that Nadal often considers invincible.

“It was a privilege to face Rafa in such an unbelievable match,” said Djokovic. “Tonight, it was my greatest match in Paris.”

Spain's Rafael Nadal hits a backhand against Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their French Open semi-final.

The lucky fans with tickets to this match were even allowed to stay until the end of the match, despite the semi-final being over the 11pm Covid-19 curfew, which had previously forced spectators to leave Roland Garros even in the middle of the game.

The fans present cheered wildly when a French Open official announced that public authorities had agreed to let spectators stay for the duration of the match.

“Maybe it wasn’t my best day today, even if I did fight,” said Nadal.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I had a big chance. There were some crazy points but there was fatigue there.”

Djokovic will now play Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final after the Greek fifth seed beat Alexander Zverev in the previous semi-final.

Had Djokovic better beat Tsitsipas, the Serbian would have claimed his 19th Grand slam title, which puts him just 20 behind the record shared by Nadal and Roger Federer.

Nadal, the 13-time Roland Garros champion, saw an incredible record of his career at the French Open when he slipped to 105 wins and lost just three. Two of those three losses went to Djokovic, with whom Nadal still leads his life-long confrontation at the French Open by a score of two.

Kevin Dotson contributed to this report.


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