Novak Djokovic dethroned 13-time champion Rafael Nadal on Friday in a curfew-busting victory to set up a French Open final against first-timer Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Top seed Djokovic stunned Nadal in more than four hours of intense battle, coming back for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory while Tsitsipas put a Greek into a Grand Slam final for the first time in history, defeating Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.
Nadal has previously lost only two matches at Roland Garros, against Swede Robin Soderling in 2009 and Djokovic himself in 2015.
The 35-year-old king of clay absorbed defeat with good grace: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I tried to give my best.
“Probably it was not my best day out there.. even if I (fought) and (put) a lot of effort.”
He said night-time conditions, which slow the speed of the ball on clay, did not play a major factor.
“We had been playing with very warm and high bounces (in the day). During the night the situation goes a little bit the other way, the bounce are a little bit less.
“The ball gets less topspin, that’s more favorable for him.
“But it doesn’t matter – that’s tennis. The player who gets used to the conditions better is the player who deserves to win.
“So no doubt he deserved to win.”
Nadal added: “I was super-tired in some moments, but the crowd gave me some energy to keep going.
“It’s super emotional for me to feel the love of the people in the most important place of my tennis career, without a doubt. So thanks a lot to them.”
Tsitsipas spent nearly four hours himself in defeating Zverev after losing his first three Grand Slam semi-finals.
The 22-year-old – youngest into the final since Nadal himself – was not bothered by the physical effort it took to achieve victory.
“I’m really happy with myself. I think I’ve shown good discipline so far. I’ve been progressive.
“There is the final, which is exciting. I’m looking forward on leaving my
entire body on the court.”
He added: “It’s time for me to show that I’m capable, I’m looking forward to that challenge (in the final).
“I’m looking forward to bringing my game to challenge myself to step it
Djokovic made a smooth recovery after losing the opening set to Nadal. The Serb who was crushed by his Spanish rival in the last Paris final in straight sets, turned that result on its head.
“This was definitely the best match that I’ve been a part of at Roland Garros and the top three matches that I’ve played in my entire career.
“This is considering quality of tennis, playing my biggest rival on the court where he has had so much success and has been the dominant force in the last 15- plus years, and the atmosphere which was completely electric.
“For both players, a lot of support. Just amazing.”
The SErb winner who came from a break down in the fourth set and then broke his opponent’s serve three times, advanced to the final on his second match point, a Nadal return wide.
He will now ease into preparation for the final against Tsitsipas.
“I’m not the freshest guy right now obviously. But the good thing is that I have a day and a half to rejuvenate and try to regroup and think about my next opponent.
“I’ll enjoy this victory a little bit… I don’t have much time, but… I think I deserve after this big win to just relax a little bit without thinking about the next opponent, even though it’s a finals of a Grand Slam.”
Main photo:- Vainqueur Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal at the net after semi-final by Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd