PARIS – Novak Djokovic halted Rafael Nadal’s bid for a 14th French Open title and gave the Clay King his third defeat in 108 matches in the tournament as he returned to win his thrilling 3-6, 6-3 semi-final, 7-6 (4), 6-2 on Friday night.
No matter how good the play was for most of the four hours, the game ended with a whimper: Djokovic took the last six games.
So Djokovic will be looking for his second Roland Garros trophy and a 19th major championship overall when he plays in Sunday’s final.
Seed Djokovic’s opponent will be fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Impossible achieved @DjokerNole becomes the first player in history to defeat Nadal in a Paris semi-final, beating the Spaniard 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 to reach the title match.#Roland Garros pic.twitter.com/Cfy4178lSW
– Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 11, 2021
It will be the 29th Grand Slam final of his career for Djokovic and the first for Tsitsipas. Tsitsipas beat Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals.
Nadal had won the last four titles in Paris, part of his collection of 20 slams, tied with Roger Federer for a man in tennis history.
The 35-year-old Spaniard is 105-3 in his career, and Djokovic is responsible for two of those losses.
The masterpiece of a third set lasted 1 hour, 33 minutes alone, and the curfew was approaching at 11 p.m. across the country due to COVID-19. Djokovic’s previous match had been delayed for more than 20 minutes while the audience, limited to 5,000 people under coronavirus restrictions, was kicked out of the stadium, but an announcement was made on Friday to let everyone know that they would be allowed to stay until the end. of the party. match.
Previous chants in French of “We will not go! We will not go!” they were replaced by choruses from the national anthem and cheers of thanks for President Emmanuel Macron.
Djokovic, a 34-year-old Serb, will face Tsitsipas, a 22-year-old Greek, who beat Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.
Tsitsipas had already given up a full two-set lead in their semi-final early Friday when he double-faulted and fell behind Love-40 in the first game of the fifth. But Tsitsipas steeled himself to earn five straight points, including one with a cross forehand that he celebrated by waving his racket as the crowd chanted his last name.
That grip pushed the 5-seeded No. Tsitsipas back in the right direction.
“I’m someone who fights. I wasn’t willing to give up just yet. I think I did few things right that worked in my favor,” said Tsitsipas, who entered the day 0-3 in the major semifinals.
“It was a breath of fresh air, that first game,” he said. “I felt revitalized.”
Tsitsipas broke to go up 3-1 in the fifth with plenty of help from Zverev, who double-faulted and missed a trio of groundstrokes. Ultimately, Tsitsipas achieved the biggest victory of his career, finishing it after more than three and a half hours on his fifth match point.
“It was an emotional match, full of so many different phases that I went through,” said Tsitsipas. “So in the end, it was such a relief that I was able to close it in such a good way. It was exhausting.”