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French Open: Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal in marathon semifinal to set up summit clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas

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Serbian tennis great Novak Djokovic defeated defending champion Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 to qualify for the final of the 2021 French Open, where he will meet Stefanos Tsitsipas.

18-time Grand Slam winner became the first player to beat Nadal for the second time on Roland Garros and is also the first player to beat Nadal after conceding the first set on the red clay of Paris.

HIGHLIGHTS: French Open 2021 Semi Finals Highlights: Djokovic beats Nadal to reach final

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Nadal, a 13-time champion at Roland Garros, was forced to play out a difficult hold in the first game, as he saved multiple game points before completing the hold. He then broke Djokovic in the subsequent game after saving a game point. The 35-year-old then consolidated further by holding his serve to surge to a 3-0 lead in the first set.

But Nadal did not stop there as he went ahead to break Djokovic for a second time on the trot and then hold his serve to go 5-0 up. Novak, however, managed to avoid a bagel, unlike last year, as he held his serve to get off the mark. He then won the next game to convert his first breakpoint of the set and reduce the parity to 3-5. Eventually, Nadal bagged the first set 6-3.

Djokovic carried the momentum he gained towards the end of the first set into the second set by breaking Nadal early to inch ahead 2-0. However, Nadal responded with a break in the very next game and then held his serve to draw back level to 2-2.

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World No.1 Djokovic looked more comfortable throughout the second set and it was visible in his body language and decision-making. He broke Nadal for the second time in game six to surge to a 4-2 lead. In the end, and after 51 minutes, Djokovic pocketed the second set 6-3.

ALSO READ| Tsitsipas outlasts Zverev in five-set thriller to enter maiden French Open final

The third set began on a rather ordinary note, in comparison to the first two, as both players held their serves and traded blows till 2-2. The set, however, picked up pace from game 5 onwards as Djokovic broke twice and Nadal broke once in consecutive games. Both Nadal and Djokovic then played out service holds until Nadal broke Djokovic for the second time in the set to take the scoreline to 5-5.

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The marathon set, which lasted 97 minutes ( an hour and 37 minutes) headed into the tiebreak. The Serbian won it 7-4 to claim the third set 6-3.

Post the culmination of the third set, the crowd was expected to leave as regulations state that spectators are allowed until 11 pm local time. The authorities, however, decided to bend the rule as this match did not deserve empty stands. That seemed to have spurred on Nadal who broke Djokovic’s serve in the first game and then held his own to take a 2-0 lead.

The joy did not last long as Djokovic won the next three games to regain the lead at 3-2. He made the most of the shift in momentum to win the fourth set 6-2.

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