By Julien Pretot
World number one Novak Djokovic rediscovered a ruthless streak when it mattered most to stay on course for a career grand slam with a 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1 win over Andy Murray to reach the French Open final on Saturday.
The Serb, looking to win the only major missing from his collection, was leading 6-3 6-3 5-7 3-3 when play was interrupted by rain and dusk after the British third seed had clawed his way back into contention on Friday.
Murray returned to court and carried on where he left off, breaking in the 11th game of the fourth set to send the contest into a decider.
Djokovic, however, was up to the task and broke twice to secure a place in the final with an ace.
Djokovic, who has a 16-0 record on clay this season, will play Swiss Stan Wawrinka on Sunday in his third Roland Garros final in four years.
“It was a very difficult match, I started very well with the right intensity, I was solid and aggressive but then Andy found his confidence back,” Djokovic, hoping to become the eighth man to gain all four grand slams, said on a sun-kissed court Philippe Chatrier.
“Today the first game of the fifth set was very important. Then I broke and I started playing better.”
The match featured the two players still unbeaten on clay this season.
Djokovic, the man who ended nine-time champion Rafa Nadal’s reign in the quarter-finals, was never in trouble in the first two sets and did not concede a single break point against a frustrated Murray.
But the Scot, who has now lost his last eight matches against Djokovic, had studied his opponent’s tactics.
In the 11th game of the third set, on his first break chance, he perfectly anticipated yet another Djokovic drop shot and slapped away a forehand.
He then held to love to clinch the third set and shake the confidence of Djokovic, who had not conceded a set in the tournament.
The Serb then took a lengthy timeout off court and was booed by the crowd when he returned.
Murray won nine points in a row to move 2-1 ahead having broken Djokovic, but the world number one broke back and it then went with serve until the interruption.
Murray grabbed his chance when it resumed, breaking for 6-5 and the Serb hit a forehand long on set point.
But Djokovic regained his composure to take a 3-0 lead in the decider, which proved a step too far for Murray, who was hoping to become the first British man to reach the French Open final since Bunny Austin in 1937.