Nadal guns down Djokovic in French Open semis
The reigning champion extends his Roland Garros record to 27 straight wins, beating the Serbian No.3 seed in straight sets
Rafael Nadal is through to his fourth French Open final in a row after beating Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-2 7-6(3).
On a blustery day on Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal dominated proceedings against the one man in the draw after Federer touted to push the Spaniard on clay. But despite rallying to reach a tie break in the third – Nadal’s first of the tournament – the Serbian couldn’t produce the goods often enough to threaten the defending champion’s faultless four-year record.
The dream semi-final line-up had the makings of a nightmare for Djokovic after being broken in just the third game of the match, Nadal finding his rhythm and ripping his forehands from the outset. The break proved enough to take the first set 6-4 in little under an hour, as Djokovic battled to stay with an at times inspired performance from the tournament favourite.
The Serb looked a broken man when he immediately dropped his serve in the first game of the second, with Nadal consolidating the break to love. At 5-1, the Spaniard threatened to run away with the set and the match, but Djokovic, playing with the carefree demeanour of a man whose fate is sealed, opened his shoulders and began going for his shots again.
Despite this, Djokovic found himself even worse off at the start of the third set. Serving at 0-2, 0-40 down he clawed his way back to deuce to the delight of the French crowd, only for Nadal to blitz the next two points. it was to become the template for the set itself.
Djokovic broke Nadal for the first time in the match to make it 1-3, and again with Nadal serving for the match. The unlikeliest of comebacks crossed many minds, and when the Serb forced a set point at 6-5 on Nadal’s serve there were whispers of a miracle in the making among the romantics.
The tennis from each man in the third set was of the highest standard, captivating a crowd who could only wish that the encounter had been of this nature from the start. Nadal, however, was in no mood to prolong his time on court, carving Djokovic apart in the deuce points to reach the tie break.
Having relinquished the opportunity to wrap the set up, Djokovic was spent. Within an instant Nadal was 6-0 up in the tie-break, and wrapped up proceedings in style, wrong-footing the Serb with a cross-court smash to seal the win.
In front of birthday boy Bjorn Borg, Nadal will further stake his claim as the undisputed king of clay on Sunday – something Djokovic was willing to concede.
“He showed once again that he is very strong mentally. He’s the best defensive player in the world and plays every point as if it’s match point. The better player won today.”
“I had no rhythm and was hitting too many unforced errors. Then I decided to go for my shots and try everything or nothing.”
Nadal, in contrast, admitted he felt invincible on his current form. “I was not expecting to play at this level. I was very dominant, I could put the ball anywhere I wanted.”
“I was dominating both on my forehand and backhand, and I didn’t think that I could make mistakes. That was key.”
The Spaniard was typically modest about his heavily weighted chances of winning a fourth consecutive Roland Garros title, saying, “it’s important to get to another final and I hope to do a good job.”
World No.1 Roger Federer awaits him in the final, hoping to finally beat the man who has beaten him in each of the past three French Opens and complete his career Grand Slam.