By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic has reached the French Open final for the fifth time, and he will meet 12-time champion Rafael Nadal, who advanced earlier Friday.
Djokovic defeated fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 in their semifinal to reach the final at Roland Garros for the fifth time.
In addition to closing in on a 13th championship at Roland Garros on Sunday, Nadal gets a chance to tie Roger Federer for the men’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles. Nadal has defeated Djokovic twice before in the final.
Tsitsipas saved a match point with Djokovic serving at 6-3, 6-2, 5-4 and turned the match around. But Djokovic found a second wind in the deciding set to secure consecutive breaks of serve to lead 4-1. Tsitsipas saved a second match point serving at 1-5, 30-40 when Djokovic returned a forehand into the net. The Serb sealed the win on his third match point after 3 hours, 54 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Novak Djokovic outlasted Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five-set match that took 3 hours, 54 minutes to reach the French Open final. YOAN VALAT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
“I stayed calm on the surface,” Djokovic said, “but deep down, it was a totally different matter.”
After the fourth set, Djokovic changed socks and shoes, and Tsitsipas got a medical visit for a check of his left leg.
“I believe my body was not ready,” Tsitsipas acknowledged afterward. “Physically, I wasn’t really there.“
Djokovic came into the match with a 215-1 record when winning the first two sets of a Grand Slam match. Only Jurgen Melzer has defeated him from two sets down, in the 2010 French Open quarterfinals.
Sunday’s final between Djokovic and Nadal will be their 56th meeting, the most between two men in the professional era (Djokovic leads 29-26), 16th at a major (Nadal leads 9-6) and eighth at the French Open (Nadal leads 6-1).
“It’s his house,” Djokovic said.
Nadal defeated 12th-seeded Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (0) on Friday in a semifinal filled with grueling, grinding points.
As has been the case for years, Nadal didn’t want to address the idea of pulling even with Federer, saying it’s fine for others to talk about such matters, but his focus remains squarely on the task at hand.
“I’m playing the most important tournament of the year — that’s what motivates me,” Nadal insisted.
The women’s final is Saturday, with Sofia Kenin, a 21-year-old from the U.S., taking on Iga Swiatek, a 19-year-old from Poland.