Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal to reach the final of the French Open.

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Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal to reach the final of the French Open.

On a night of athletic drama at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal was defeated for the third time at the French Open, as Novak Djokovic won an astonishing semi-final.

The great Spaniard had won 105 of his previous 107 matches on the Parisian clay, losing only to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in the final eight six years ago.

Djokovic had won all 13 of his previous semi-finals, but in a 58th encounter between the two that was on par with almost any that had come before, he found the solutions to the sport’s greatest challenge to triumph 3-6 6-3 7-6 (4) 6-2.

The world number one will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final on Sunday, seeking for a 19th grand slam trophy and to become the first man in the Open era to win each trophy at least twice. Tsitsipas defeated Alexander Zverev in a five-set match earlier on Friday.

Nadal has been attempting to break Djokovic’s all-time men’s record of 21 slam championships and entered as a clear, albeit small, favorite, especially after his thrashing in the final last October.

The first five games were nearly identical to that encounter, with Nadal responding to everything Djokovic could throw at him and racing into a 5-0 lead, but the contest then veered off in a totally different route.

Djokovic not only avoided the love set, but he also fought back three games, creating doubts in Nadal’s head before the Spaniard took his seventh set point.

Those worries were clear when Djokovic took a 2-0 lead and then a 4-2 lead after Nadal had broken back.

The next game encapsulated why these two rivalries are among the best in sports. The points were enthralling, the athleticism astounding, with both men attempting not only to deploy their weapons but also to prevent the other from doing so.

Nadal had three chances to reclaim the lead, but each time he was thwarted. (This is a brief piece.)

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