account_circle
Register
menu
person
Premium Avatar
Log in
Register
Tsitispas into French Open final as Djokovic, Nadal set for 58th meeting
© afp.com/Christophe ARCHAMBAULT

Tsitispas into French Open final as Djokovic, Nadal set for 58th meeting

Published by , Friday 06/11/21 19:36

Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek player to reach a Grand Slam final at the French Open on Friday as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were set to meet for the 58th time in their "historic rivalry".

Fifth-seeded Tsitsipas claimed a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Germany's Alexander Zverev, ending a streak of three successive semi-final losses at the majors.

"All I can think of is my roots, a small place outside Athens where I dreamed to play on the big stage at the French Open," said a tearful Tsitsipas on making his first final at the majors, secured on a fifth match point.

"It was nerve-wracking, so intense, I stayed alive. I went out there and fought. This win means a lot, it's the most important one of my career so far."

Tsitsipas, 22, is the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Andy Murray at the 2010 Australian Open.

After giving up a two-set lead, Tsitsipas crucially saved three break points in the first game of the deciding set.

He made the most of the escape, breaking Zverev, bidding to be the first German man since Michael Stich in 1996 to get to the final, for 3-1 and quickly securing the advantage for 4-1.

In a 10-minute eighth game, Zverev saved four match points, the second with a drop shot, the third with an ace.

However, Tsitsipas held his nerve and claimed victory after more than three and a half hours on court with his eighth ace of the match.

Tsitsipas will have his work cut out on Sunday -- he is 2-7 against Nadal and 2-5 playing Djokovic.

But he is one of the form players on clay this year, arriving in Paris with titles in Monte Carlo and Lyon.

He also had a match point to beat Nadal in the Barcelona final.

- 'Historic rivalry' -

Djokovic and Nadal will clash on the same Court Philippe Chatrier where they first met 15 years ago.

It is tennis's greatest modern match-up between two men who have harvested 38 Grand Slam titles and 72 Masters between them.

Djokovic has spent more weeks at world number one than any other player while 13-time French Open winner Nadal has not been out of the top 10 in 16 years.

Nadal will start Friday's semi-final as favourite, buoyed by his record of 105 wins and just two losses in his Roland Garros career.

The 35-year-old also has the edge over Djokovic on clay with a 19-7 career lead and 7-1 in Paris.

Djokovic hasn't beaten Nadal on the surface since Rome in 2016.

He can, however, boast being one of only two men to have defeated Nadal in Paris, in the quarter-finals in 2015.

"It's a well-anticipated semi-final and here we are," said Djokovic.

"We had some battles over the years on this court."

Nadal defeated 2016 champion Djokovic in straight sets in last year's final, the Serb's third loss in the championship match in Paris to the Spaniard.

There is plenty at stake on Friday as the two rivals close in on Sunday's final.

Djokovic can win a 19th Slam and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 -- and only the third in history -- to win all four Slams twice.

Victory for Nadal would give him a record-setting 21st major, breaking a tie with Roger Federer.

"The vibes are different walking on the court with him," added Djokovic, who is in his 40th Grand Slam semi-final. "But that's why our rivalry has been historic."

It's been a topsy-turvy tournament for Djokovic.

After racing through the first three rounds, he had to come back from two sets down to defeat Italian 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti.

In the quarter-finals, he dropped the third set against Matteo Berrettini.

With the exception of a second-set blip in the quarter-finals against Diego Schwartzman, Nadal has reached his 14th semi-final relatively unscathed.

But despite his clay court stranglehold on Djokovic, Nadal isn't getting too far ahead of himself.

"It is a semi-final, not a final. That's a big difference," said the Spanish star who could become the oldest man to make the final in Paris.

Source: AFP