Federer snaps Djokovic winning streak
Roger Federer finally ended Novak Djokovic's unbeaten start to the year, recording a 7-6(5) 6-3 3-6 7-6(5) victory over the Serb to reach the French Open final.
Djokovic, who only needed one more win to equal John McEnroe's 42-0 record start to the 1984 season, bounced back from two sets to love down and at one point served to take it to a fifth.
But ultimately Federer proved too strong for the second seed, not only denying him a place in the final and the winning streak record, but also preventing the Serb from becoming the world number one when the new rankings are released on Monday.
Third seed Federer will now play defending champion and world number one Rafael Nadal in Sunday's final, after the Spaniard beat Andy Murray 6-4 7-5 6-4 in the day's other semi-final.
After trading opening service breaks it was Djokovic who made the better start to the match, taking a 4-2 lead before being pegged back by an insistent Federer, who broke straight back before going on to push the tie-break.
But still the momentum seemed to be with Djokovic as he earned himself set points, only to see Federer come back at him again.
And Federer went on to snatch the first set from the Djokovic, when the second seed hit an off forehand into the top of the net.
Despite enjoying a break point against the Federer serve in the first game of the second set, Djokovic will be left rueing a listless performance in that set as Federer broke in the fourth game before running away with it.
At two sets to love down, and struggling on almost every service game, Djokovic looked well out of the match but credit should go to the Serb as he managed to turn things completely to his favour.
Almost out of nowhere, Djokovic secured a break in the second game of the third set and it was Federer's turn to look puzzled as he slapped a backhand wide to concede his serve.
Federer also had to save a break point in the fourth game, to avoid going a double-break down but it was only a temporary respite for the third seed as the damage was already done and Djokovic took the third set five games later with a booming ace down the centre of the court.
Amidst the encroaching gloom, Djokovic and Federer traded comfortable service holds to open the fourth set, keeping the enthralled crowd guessing as to which way the match would go.
Djokovic was the first to display a chink in his armour as Federer pushed him to 30-30 in the sixth game. But the Serb did well to recover with his fifth ace of the day before going on to hold with a backhand winner across court.
Three games later and it was Federer's turn to show a little weakness as Djokovic pushed him to deuce; the world number three squandered several chances to leave himself just one game from the win and handed Djokovic the break advantage with a backhand wide across court.
Djokovic was left serving for the fourth set that would certainly lead to the match being completed on Saturday as the clock ticked over to 9:10 at night (Parisian time).
But Federer was determined not to return for a second day and broke back immediately; finding a forehand winner on his third break point after running around the ball.
Another service hold apiece and the set was destined to end in a tie-break.
With things all-square at the change of ends, there was still little to choose between the two players, save from the slightly more tired body language that has come to be deemed customary from Djokovic.
A forehand into the net from Djokovic (who hid his head in his shirt immediately after making the error) was the turning point however as Federer went on to earn himself three match points.
The Serb saved both the first and second, with a little help from the net on the first and an ace on the second, but the third was on Federer's serve which had been indestructible almost all evening.
And sure enough, the Swiss third seed delivered a grand-stand finish when he thumped down his 18th ace of the match to reach his fourth French Open final.