Rafael Nadal overcomes Novak Djokovic in five-set epic


Rafael Nadal came through a five-set epic against Novak Djokovic to book a place in the French Open final where he will he looking to win an eighth title.

It was a bruising encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier that lasted close to five hours and was filled with some supreme shot making.

Nadal eventually triumphed 6-4 3-6 6-1 7-6 9-7 but needed to come from behind in the deciding set in order to make it to Sunday's final, where he will await the winner of the second semi-final between David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfired Tsonga.

The opening set was a little cagey as both men never really got into top gear, though Nadal's consistency was remarkable. 

Djokovic responded fantastically to the early setback, though he was still in the doldrums early in the second set and was struggling to hold serve, so it was surprise when Nadal broke once again in fifth game with a winner down the line off a poor drop shot.

The world number one's anger in reaction to that poor shot must have woken him up because he broke back straight away with some thunderous groundstrokes and one particularly good volley off his laces.

The Serb won the next three games to level but this was a match that was destined to ebb and flow to the finish.

Djokovic went from looking untouchable in winning the second to only winning 12 points in a pitiful third and looked to have run out of steam.

His powers of recovery are astonishing, however, as he fell to the first break of serve in the fourth set and responded by breaking straight back.

Nadal broke again for 6-5 and to serve for the match, but the Serb stepped up emphatically to take the fourth set into a tie-break with a sublime forehand winner.

The bounce continued into the tie-break and Nadal couldn’t live with Djokovic’s depth - a decider was required.

Neither man looked overly tired for a match that was into its fifth hour, but Djokovic was in the ascendancy and broke the Spaniard immediately in the fifth.

There is probably no player on the tour with greater grit and fighting spirit than Nadal, however, and he hung in there as his opponent was playing some of his best tennis of the match.

The break back came in the eighth game when Djokovic set up one break point by touching the net when trying to put away a smash – he duly saved it but Nadal pushed again and levelled the set.

The strain was beginning to show as neither man could find a break through as the deciding set went to 7-7 and, as ever, Nadal was the one to stand the strain to grab the crucial break.

Djokovic threw up a stinker of a service game at 7-8 and two unforced errors saw Nadal with three match points – he needed only one as the Serb went long to send the defending champion into his 17th Grand Slam final.

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