Michel Euler/Associated Press
Novak Djokovic dethroned the “King of Clay” in one of the best matches ever between the “Big Three” of men’s tennis.
The top-seeded Serbian will appear in his 29th-career Grand Slam final and sixth at the French Open on Sunday against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas clinched a spot in his first-ever Grand Slam final by taking down Alexander Zverev in a five-set showdown that preceded the epic Djokovic-Nadal showdown on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Friday French Open Results
No. 1 Novak Djokovic def. No. 3 Rafael Nadal, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2
No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas def. No. 6 Alexander Zverev, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3
Djokovic handed Nadal his third-ever loss on the Paris clay. The No. 1 seed owns two of those victories.
Djokovic’s win was more remarkable when you consider he lost the first five games of the opening set.
Nadal appeared to be in complete control, but then Djokovic won three games in a row to gain a bit of momentum heading into the second set.
The second set started a trend of service breaks that extended into the final two sets on the venue’s showcase court.
Three breaks occurred in the first six games of the second set, which led to Djokovic earning a 4-2 advantage. He finished off that set with relative ease.
The third set is where the match turned from another showdown between greats into an epic that ranks up there with any match played between Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer.
The third set lasted over a hour-and-a-half and it featured three consecutive break points that led to Djokovic’s 5-3 lead.
Nadal earned the fourth break of the set to level the match at 5-5 and the set was determined in a tiebreak.
Djokovic took an advantage by the middle of the tiebreak and then cruised through the fourth set to claim his spot in the final.
Djokovic went down 0-2 in the fourth set, but then he won six consecutive points with three service breaks to dethrone the 13-time French Open champion.
Tsitsipas looked like he was going to breeze past Zverev in three sets, but the German powered back in the third and fourth sets to force the fifth-seeded Greek to close out in five.
Tsitsipas took each of the first two sets by a 6-3 advantage, but the victories came in much different fashions. He picked up a break on Zverev’s first service game in the first set and he rallied from down 0-3 to secure the second set.
Zverev looked much better in the third and fourth sets and the result was almost a carbon copy of his first-round performance, where he lost the first two sets and then came back to win in five.
It did not take long for Tsitsipas to break Zverev in the fifth set, as he got to the German on his second service game.
Tsitsipas held serve from that point on and had an easy service game to close out the first of two semifinal matches.
Djokovic and Tsitsipas have met seven times in their careers. Djokovic holds a 5-2 edge in the series and he won the only Grand Slam showdown between the two in five sets at the 2020 French Open.