Nadal and Djokovic advance to French Open final
Defending champion Rafael Nadal and top seed Novak Djokovic have reached the French Open final following wins over Diego Schwartzman and Stefanos Tsitsipas respectively.
Nadal, the 12-time champion won 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 after a slugfest lasting three hours and eight minutes. He will contest his 13th French Open final on Sunday against the man he beat to win the title in 2012 and in 2015.
Nadal, who lost to Schwartzman in the quarter-final of the Italian Open last month, opened the match shortly after 3pm on Court Philippe Chatrier in Paris.
And it did not start well. He faced two break points during a game which lasted 14 minutes. It took him barely a third of that time to break Schwartzman and move into a 2-0 lead.
But the Argentine came back to 2-1 but could not hold to level at 2-2.
Nadal surged away and took the opener after 67 minutes.
The second was a swifter affair. A break at the outset and at the end wrapped up matters in 41 minutes.
And the Spaniard appeared set fair for a Sunday showdown when he moved into a 3-1 lead in the third.
But a couple of errors allowed Schwartzman hope and the Grand Slam semi final debutant - feeding off the cheers of the thousand spectators - gained parity at 4-4.
In an epic 12-minute game at 5-5, Nadal fended off three break points before holding to lead 6-5.
When Schwartzman brought it back to 6-6, not only was the second seed playing in his longest match of the 2020 tournament, he was also facing the prospect of losing his first set of the competition.
“I had a couple of chances in the third set to move away from Diego,” Nadal told on-court interviewer Cedric Pioline after the match. “But I could not take them and after what happened in Rome, I knew what he could do.
"I was expecting a tough match and it was. I am happy with the way I am improving.”
Nadal, seemingly affronted that he might become embroiled in an extended dogfight, scorched away a backhand winner to take the first point of the tiebreak.
At 3-0 up, Schwartzman had him on the run and Nadal sent up a lob which the Argentine smashed into the tramlines.
Leading 4-0, Nadal hoovered up the next three points to advance to his 28th final at a Grand Slam tournament.
Djokovic, by contrast, cruised through the first two sets as Tsitsipas failed to exploit his break points.
But the tide turned when the Serb failed to convert a match point when 5-4 up.
Tsitsipas levelled at 5-5 and went on to take the third set 7-5.
The fourth went the Greek’s way too. And from the verge of a straight sets waltz in less than two hours, Djokovic was in a battle for survival.
He broke Tsitsipas to lead 2-1 in the decider and as his 22-year-old opponent began to crumble physically, the 33-year-old won the next four games to kill off the resurgence after four hours and join Nadal in the final.
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