In what is only the third match Nadal has ever lost at Roland Garros, the 13-time champion was beaten on his favourite court with Djokovic simply unplayable over the four sets.
Both players traded winners with an array of incredible rallies which thrilled the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd and the standard of play simply could not have been higher.
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Djokovic and Rafael Nadal put on a masterclass at Roland Garros as they met for the second consecutive year – but this time the Serb came out on top after four hours and 11 minutes, and Wilander was wowed.
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“I haven’t [seen a better clay court match],” Wilander told Eurosport. “It seemed like the courts were playing really fast and they had so little time and both players had to anticipate when the other player hit. Novak, that’s as aggressive as I have seen him be on a clay court especially at Roland-Garros.
“Novak says this is the greatest match he’s played against Rafa at Roland-Garros and of course he’s beaten him once before. But it gets to the point where you can’t overlook these numbers.
“Obviously he has got Stefanos Tsitsipas in the finals and he will be liking what he saw in terms of the hours Novak had to spend.
Novak could be on 19 after this and there could be three guys on 20 after Wimbledon. We have to start talking about the GOAT.
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Mischa Zverev told Eurosport: “It was incredible and hard to describe because you’ve seen them play well before and every time they do it again you think it’s impossible but they still produce the quality that is from another planet.
“The third set had all the up and downs. At times it was like a computer game because no matter where they hit the ball, A – it’s landing in, and B the guy is already there and it’s impossible to hit winners, they don’t make any unforced errors and still the [other player] still finds a winner. It’s just impossible how they were playing.
“It could have gone the other way like five times on five different occasions. But again, you barely saw any unforced errors. Everyone was going for really tough shots and they were making them so you can’t say someone did something wrong, it was just incredible tennis. Novak was just too good towards the end.”
“Definitely the best atmosphere, the best match that I’ve played on centre court at Roland-Garros in my career against my biggest rival,” Djokovic told Eurosport.
The energy of the place was electric from the first point, for both players there was a lot of support. It was one of these matches you can remember forever, definitely one of the top three matches in my life.
Watch the moment Djokovic beats Nadal to reach final at Roland Garros
“I’m obviously overjoyed right now, very happy, very satisfied with how I played especially in the crucial moments. Beating Rafa at Roland-Garros: we all know how difficult of a task that is so of course, it makes it even bigger tonight.
“The conditions at night and during the day are played differently. The balls are bouncing less at night and I felt there was too much clay around the baseline at the beginning and maybe it was because it was a little bit more humid and heavy so that created a different environment as a player. But I managed to find my groove. I didn’t start well – I was 0-5 down, but I still felt I was hitting the ball well and had a good chance.”
Djokovic lost to the 13-time champion in Paris last year and the pair played some absurdly good shots during their huge latest clash – so much so, Andy Murray was among the stars lauding the match.
“You cannot play better clay court tennis than this,” Murray said. “It’s perfect.”
Andy Roddick added: “To this point, it’s one of the best matches I’ve ever seen.”
Remarkably, Djokovic lost the first five games of the match as Nadal roared into a one-set lead, but the top seed found quite staggering levels to beat the King of Clay on Chatrier – surely one of the toughest tasks in sports.
An unusual and amazing shot came early on with Nadal attempting to save three break points on his own serve in the second game of the second set.
While Djokovic would go on to break serve in response to the Spaniard winning the opening set 6-3, the 13-time champion at Roland Garros saved this particular break point with a truly sublime effort.
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“It has to be that good at the moment!” exclaimed Eurosport’s Simon Reed on commentary as Nadal left Djokovic laughing with a drop shot played while running backwards and to the side in a desperate reaction.
Djokovic, 34, has won the French Open once, in 2016, compared to Nadal’s 13 titles at Roland Garros but both men are in the hunt to end their careers with the most Grand Slam titles to their names.
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The fifth seed showed all his class and supreme form as he battled past Alexander Zverev, 6-3 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-3 in their semi-final on Friday afternoon.
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