Rafael Nadal demonstrated once again why he is the greatest player in French Open history by beating long-time rival Novak Djokovic in a late-night thriller to reach the men’s singles semi-finals.
Nadal, going for a 14th title, started superbly and fought off resistance from defending champion Djokovic to win 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-4) at Roland Garros.
Nadal secured victory at 1:15 am local time after over four hours on court.
The 21-time Grand Slam winner now faces third seed Alexander Zverev on Friday.
Germany’s Zverev, 25, reached the semi-finals for the second successive year after surviving teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz’s fightback earlier on Tuesday.
“To win against Novak there is only one way: to play your best from the first point to the last,” said 35-year-old Nadal, who thanked the Paris crowd for showing their “love”.
“This is one of those magic nights for me.”
Victory for fifth seed Nadal avenged his semi-final defeat by Djokovic last year and extended his all-time record on the Roland Garros clay to 110 wins in 113 matches.
The rivalry between the pair is the most enduring in men’s tennis, with Nadal winning their 59th meeting and seeing him narrow the gap to 30-29 in the head-to-head.
“Nadal showed why he is a great champion and stayed mentally tough. No doubt he deserves it,” said Djokovic.
“He was the better player in the important moments, he started well and I didn’t start so well.
“I gained momentum in the second set and I thought I was back in the game. But he was able to take his tennis to another level.”