Defending champion Rafael Nadal moved closer to an historic eighth French Open title on Friday when he defeated world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 9-7 in a titanic semi-final.
In today’s title match, the third seed is to face fourth-seeded compatriot David Ferrer, who ended French hopes of a first champion in 30 years by sweeping past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2.
Nadal will be aiming to be the first man to win the same major eight times, while 31-year-old Ferrer will be appearing in his first Grand Slam final.
He has reached the championship match at the 42nd time of asking, but now faces overturning a 19-4 career deficit against his compatriot.
Nadal, the third seed, took his Paris record to a staggering 58 wins from 59 matches after recovering from 4-2 down in the deciding set to clinch victory after 4 hours, 37 minutes.
Friday’s win was Nadal’s 20th in 35 career clashes — and 13th from 16 on clay — against Djokovic.
In a dramatic and controversial final set, Djokovic broke for 1-0 before Nadal leveled in the eighth game after the Serb had been handed a time violation and then lost a point when he collided with the net as he put away a smash.
Djokovic even summoned the tournament supervisor onto the court to rage over the court conditions as he prepared to serve at 7-8.
Nadal pounced, moving to three match points and clinched victory when Djokovic, who ended with an ugly 75 unforced errors, hit wild and long.
“It’s a very special win for me and congratulations to Novak — he’s a great champion and he is going to win here at Garros one day,” said Nadal, who had lost the pair’s only other five-setter, the record-setting Australian Open final last year.
Djokovic was furious that his demands for the court to be watered were ignored.
Ferrer ended the home hopes of the sixth-seeded Tsonga, who was out to match the feat of Yannick Noah, who last won the title for France in 1983.
However, it was a richly deserved reward for outstanding perseverance on the part of 31-year-old Ferrer, who reached his first Grand Slam final in his 42nd appearance, the longest wait in the Open Era.
“I am really happy for me to be in the final at Roland Garros. It’s my first ever Grand Slam final,” said Ferrer, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament .
“I am older, but more experienced. I am not too tired, so this is very important. To play the final against Rafael Nadal, I need to be 100 percent to be able to play good against him,” he added.