French Open: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic set up 'Super Sunday'
Paris: Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who needs a Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam, will clash in Sunday's French Open final after racking up convincing semi-final wins on Friday.
World number one Nadal cruised to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 win against Wimbledon champion and seventh seed Andy Murray to register his 65th win on the red clay of Paris against just one defeat as he moved one victory away from becoming the first man to win five successive French Opens.
Sunday will be the 28-year-old Spaniard's 20th Grand Slam final.
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory over Great Britain's Andy Murray at the end of their semi-final match at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on Friday. Pic/AFP
Djokovic, the world number two and runner-up to Nadal in the 2012 championship match, went through to his 13th major final thanks to a 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Latvian giantkiller Ernests Gulbis Of Latvia.
Nadal could wrap up a 14th Grand Slam title which would put him level at second best on the all-time list with Pete Sampras and three behind Roger Federer while Djokovic will be chasing his seventh major.
Top seed and eight-time winner Nadal now stands just one win away from becoming the first man to take the French Open title five times in a row, surpassing Bjorn Borg.
He also is on the cusp of a 14th Grand Slam title, which would put him level at second best on the all-time list with Pete Sampras and three behind Roger Federer.
Murray failed in his bid to become the first British player to contest the French Open final since Bunny Austin 77 years ago and will now turn his attention to defending his Wimbledon crown.
It was his worst loss to Nadal in nine Grand Slam match-ups between the two, surpassing the nine games he managed in the 2008 Wimbledon quarter-finals.
"I think that today I played my best tennis at Roland Garros this year," said Nadal.
"After 10 years of coming here and to be back in the final for the ninth time - it's something I never believed would happen in my life.
"He (Djokovic) is an unbelievable opponent. He is always a big challenge and I need to play at my very best. He beat me the last few times we played."
Nadal was aware that the last time he played Murray -- on clay in Rome last month -- the Scot won the first set 6-1, before losing in three.
This time it was a very different scenario as the Spaniard, who turned 28 on Tuesday, hit the deck running, winning the first three games in just 10 minutes and for the loss of just three points.
Murray finally opened his account, but the one break of serve was enough for Nadal to take the first set 6-3.
It was another storming start to the second set from Nadal who bludgeoned two big forehand winners past Murray to set up breakpoint which he took when the seventh seed weakly hit a high forehand wide.
Murray was failing to make any impression on the Nadal serve with not a single break point offering him any hope, and it became an even steeper mountain to climb for him when he dropped serve for the third time to put Nadal 5-2 up.
The Majorcan duly pocketed the set by serving out to love and such was the one-sided nature of the contest that there was no sign of Murray's habitual angry outbursts aimed at getting himself going.
The outcome looked a formality and when Nadal broke the Murray serve for the fourth time to lead 2-1 in the third the end was in sight for the 27-year-old Scot.
It came 18 minutes later when a dispirited Murray lost serve for the fifth and final time.
The win brought Nadal's formidable record on the claycourts at Roland Garros, since making his debut in 2005, to 65 wins against the one loss, conceded to Robin Soderling of Sweden in a fourth round tie in 2009.
And it meant that he has now won 20 of the 23 Grand Slam semi-finals he has contested in his career, the last time he lost in the last four being against Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open.
'Lucky 13' for Novak Djokovic as Serb ends Ernests Gulbis' run
Paris: Novak Djokovic reached his 13th Grand Slam final and second at the French Open on Friday, bringing to an end giantkiller Ernests Gulbis's colourful Paris campaign.
The world number two triumphed 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and will face either top seed and eight-time champion Rafael Nadal, who beat him in the 2012 final, or Britain's Andy Murray for the title.
Victory on Sunday would make Djokovic only the eighth man in history to complete the career Grand Slam.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball against Latvia's Ernests Gulbis during their semi-final match at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on Friday. Pic/AFP
"I played really well in the first two sets with great concentration, but the hot conditions were very tough for both of us," said six-time major winner Djokovic.
"I am always motivated to play well at Roland Garros. I need to push my body to the maximum as it's hard to predict what will happen."
Playing in his 22nd semi-final at a major compared to a debut appearance for Gulbis, the Serb was hardly troubled in the first two sets on a sweltering afternoon in the French capital.
But Gulbis, the 18th seed who defeated 17-time major winner Roger Federer and sixth seed Tomas Berdych to get to his first Grand Slam semi-final, rallied in the third to briefly breathe life into the contest.
In the end, however, Gulbis's 44 unforced errors to Djokovic's 25, as well as his ability to convert just two of his seven break points proved crucial.
Gulbis was made to regret squandering break points in the fourth game of the first set as Djokovic pounced in the next and claimed the opener on a third set point in the ninth game.
The crucial point summed up the 41-minute set as the Serb illustrated why he is regarded as the game's best returner, his early backhand putting Gulbis on the back foot and off balance with the Latvian unable to regain his poise.
Gulbis fired twice as many unforced errors in the opener, the heat and bright conditions making the ball fly.
Watched by a host of former champions including Bjorn Borg and Gustavo Kuerten, Gulbis hit a lazy backhand long and was broken to trail 3-4 in the second set.
Djokovic claimed a double break and the second set in the ninth game as Gulbis's afternoon went from bad to worse with his error count moving to 28 against 12.
The more experienced and far steadier Djokovic saved a break point again in the second game of the third set and two more in the sixth.
But Gulbis, buoyed by a run of form that many in the sport thought was beyond this son of one of Latvia's richest men, finally broke at the sixth attempt for 5-3 and secured the third set with his 11th ace, fired down the 'T' at 210km/h.
Suddenly, the semi-final burst into life.
Djokovic broke to lead 2-0 in the fourth set but handed it back in the third game, a lapse which prompted a racquet smash into the Paris dirt followed by a code violation.
But he regained his composure with what proved to be the critical break in the eighth game of the set and when a fatigued Gulbis failed to get any serious purchase on a raking Djokovic forehand the contest was over.