World no. 1 Novak Djokovic was a man on the mission on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Friday night against the king of clay Rafael Nadal. Losing the previous five encounters on clay against the Spaniard and suffering seven losses from eight Roland Garros clashes against the 13-time champion, the Serb was ready to leave everything on the court and battle for a place in the sixth Roland Garros final.
Playing with a lot of confidence and believing in his abilities, Novak ousted Rafa 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 after four hours and 11 minutes, delivering Nadal's third loss in Paris from 17 appearances and beating the most significant rival for the second time on Court Philippe-Chatrier after 2015.
Thus, Novak will play in his sixth Roland Garros final, hoping for a more favorable result after taking only seven games against Rafa last October. Djokovic did everything right to cross the finish line first, hitting 50 winners and overpowering Rafa in both the shortest and more extended exchanges to secure his greatest ever win in Paris.
Novak trailed 5-0 in the opener before finding the rhythm, fending off break chances at the end of the second set, saving a set point in the third and toppling Rafa in the fourth to emerge at the top and remain on the title course.
Novak Djokovic praised his performance after an epic win over Rafael Nadal.
"It was definitely the best match I was ever part of at Roland Garros, and it among the top three encounters that I've ever played in my entire career.
The quality of tennis was high, and I faced my biggest rival on the court where he has had so much success over the past 15 years. The atmosphere was utterly electric, and both of us had a lot of support; it was just amazing.
It's hard to find words bigger than all the superlatives you can think of for Rafa's achievements at Roland Garros. He has been the most dominant player in Roland Garros history. He has lost three matches at this event in his entire career.
He's been playing here for almost two decades, and that achievement speaks for itself. The amount of wins that he has made on this court is incredible. Each time you step on the court with him, you know that you must climb Mount Everest to beat him.
I had won only once in our eight matches on Court Philippe-Chatrier; I tried to take some positives and some cues from that victory over Rafa in 2015 and implement those elements tonight, which worked out very nicely. It's one of these matches that I will remember for a very long time, not just because I won but because of the atmosphere and a special occasion," Novak Djokovic said.