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Nadal Edges Djokovic In Epic Contest

Paris, France

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal will contest his eighth Roland Garros final.

Rafael Nadal will contest his eighth Roland Garros final after beating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7 in four hours and 37 minutes in a pulsating semi-final clash on Friday in Paris. 

"You need to love the game," said Nadal. "You [need to] appreciate what you are doing in every moment. I learned during all my career to enjoy suffering, and these kind of matches are very special. You don't have the chance to play these kind of matches every day. So when these kind of matches happen you suffer, but I really enjoy these moments."

The Spaniard will face fourth seed David Ferrer in Sunday’s final. He is chasing his 12th Grand Slam championship and has a winning FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Ferrer (19-4).

The 27-year-old Nadal has a 58-1 record at Roland Garros and is bidding to become the first man in history to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam. The left-hander’s only defeat at the Paris major came four years ago in the fourth round against Robin Soderling.

Nadal improved to a 20-15 record over Djokovic in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. He also defeated the Serb at Roland Garros in the 2012 final and in the 2007-08 semi-finals. 

Djokovic-Nadal: The Rivalry

Djokovic had dealt Nadal a harsh defeat in their previous meeting at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, where he ended the Spaniard’s 46-match winning streak at the event. Did it weigh on Nadal’s mind? The Spaniard was two points from victory when he led 6-5, 30/15 in the fourth set, but he tightened up and Djokovic came roaring back into contention. Nadal then came back from a 2-4 deficit in the drama-filled fifth set to give the match an enthralling finish.

Watch Nadal Interview

"It was a really emotional match," said Nadal. "But both of us played for a lot of moments at a very high level. So these kind of matches make the sport big. I'm so happy with the way that I played, and more than happy with the way that I fought in the fifth set after losing a big chance in the fourth. That's probably the most difficult thing to do, and I did it."

Read: How The Nadal, Djokovic Semi-Final Was Won

"It's been an unbelievable match to be part of, but all I can feel now is disappointment," said Djokovic. "I congratulate my opponent, because he showed the courage in the right moments and went for his shots. When he was break down in the fifth, he made some incredible shots from the baseline. I congratulate him, because that's why he's a champion. That's why he's been ruling Roland Garros for many years, and for me it's another year."

Nadal is through to his ninth final in as many tournaments since his comeback from a left knee injury that kept him sidelined for seven months until February. The Mallorca native is on a 21-match winning streak, having won three successive titles at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Almagro), the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Wawrinka) and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome (d. Federer) since his Monte-Carlo final defeat.

The 26-year-old Djokovic was bidding to become the eighth man in history to complete the career Grand Slam and gave Nadal the hardest match he’s had at Roland Garros, other than the defeat to Soderling. Indeed, it was only the second five-set match Nadal has played at the French major, with the first being a first-round win over John Isner in 2011.

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