Djokovic drops Nadal in classic at French Open

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Djokovic drops Nadal in classic at French Open

PARIS — Novak Djokovic stopped Rafael Nadal‘s bid for a 14th French Open title and handed the King of Clay just his third loss in 108 matches at the tournament by coming back to win a thriller of a semifinal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 on Friday night.

In yet another display of tremendous tennis between the rivals, the match lasted for 4 hours, 11 minutes. After trailing 0-2 in the fourth set, Djokovic rattled off six consecutive games to clinch the victory.

Djokovic will be seeking his second trophy at Roland Garros and a 19th major championship overall when he plays in Sunday’s final for the sixth time, tying Bjorn Borg for No. 2 in the event behind Nadal (13).

The top-seeded Djokovic’s opponent will be fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas.

It will be the 29th career Grand Slam final for Djokovic, and the first for Tsitsipas, who beat Alexander Zverev in five sets in a semifinal match earlier Friday.

Nadal had won the past four titles in Paris, part of his collection of 20 Slams, tied with Roger Federer for the most by a man in tennis history.

Nadal, a 14-time winner of the French Open who turned 35 last week, fell to 105-3 in his career at Roland Garros — with two of those losses now at the hands of Djokovic.

The masterpiece of a third set lasted 1 hour, 33 minutes alone, and an 11 p.m. nationwide curfew in place because of COVID-19 was approaching. Djokovic’s previous match had been delayed more than 20 minutes while the audience — limited to 5,000 people under coronavirus restrictions — was cleared out of the stadium, but an announcement was made Friday to let everyone know they would be allowed to stay until the end of the match.

Earlier chants in French of “We won’t leave! We won’t leave!” were replaced by choruses of the national anthem and cheers of thanks for President Emmanuel Macron.

It was the 58th matchup between the rivals, more than any other two men in the sport’s professional era. Djokovic now leads 30-28, but he trails 10-7 in Slam meetings and 7-2 at the French Open.

Djokovic won the French Open in 2016 and could join Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men to win each of the four Grand Slam tournaments twice.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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