Rafael Nadal has reached his 17th Grand Slam final, well on course to becoming the first player ever to win the Roland Garros eight times.
The Spaniard had one of the strongest challenges of his red court career from Novak Djokovic in an epic French Open semi-final at the Court Philippe Chatrier on Friday, eventually seeing off the top seed 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-9 in a scintillating five-set razzle-dazzle.
The heavyweight clash lasted for four hours and 37 minutes, bet you, in the time it had taken Nadal and Djokovic to play 11 games of the fifth set, Serena Williams had already booked her place in the women’s final.
Nadal will either play compatriot David Ferrer or Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Sunday’s final.
There was drama every step of the way as earlier predicted since the day Nadal and Djokovic were paired in the same half and it lived up to its billing, with long rallies, brilliant defence, delicate drop shots, time violations, questionable line calls and volleys.
It was the 35th match between the top seed and the world number three and the Mallorcan now leads the series with Djokovic 20-15. Nadal improved his Roland Garros record to 58-1.
The deciding set lasted more than 80 minutes after Nadal failed to serve out the match in the fourth set and Djokovic let a 4-2 lead slip in the fifth, before the Spaniard proved his intimidating strength and physical style in the decider.
A triumphant Nadal grinned, pumped his fist into the air and answered the fans’ thunderous roar with applause for them and then gestured towards his opponent.