Novak Djokovic can see the mountaintop of men’s tennis. Defeating Rafael Nadal at the French Open will lift a man to the greatest heights imaginable, and with one more win on Sunday, Djokovic will take a unique place in tennis history.

Novak Djokovic fell behind 5-0 in the first set, but rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win in four hours and 11 minutes of enthralling tennis at Roland Garros. The win inside Court Philippe Chatrier propels Djokovic to Sunday’s men’s final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

If Djokovic beats Tsitsipas — and he will be a huge favorite to do so — he will create tennis history on a level we have never seen before. That might sound hyperbolic, but it is entirely true.

First, some background to put this match in context:

Novak Djokovic versus Rafael Nadal on Friday in Paris was the most significant major semifinal match in the history of men’s tennis. It was the most consequential men’s tennis match not played on a Saturday or Sunday, since those are the days when championship matches have normally been played over the years. A French Open semifinal between two players with a combined 38 major titles represented a massive occasion for a non-championship match. It certainly delivered compelling theater, and at the end, Djokovic rose to the occasion.

So much history entered this match between Djokovic and Nadal.

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Novak Djokovic had played Nadal in French Open semifinals a few times before, memorably in 2013, when a net violation cost him a crucial point and he lost 9-7 in the fifth set. Djokovic had played Nadal in multiple Roland Garros finals as well, losing in 2020. He kept climbing up the mountainside but didn’t reach the summit.

Friday, he climbed past Nadal, and now he just has to win one more match to make himself the stand-alone king of tennis on several fronts.

Here is what Novak Djokovic accomplished, in addition to beating Nadal and making a sixth French Open final:

  • Novak Djokovic became the first man to beat Nadal twice at Roland Garros.
  • He gave Nadal the Spaniard’s first loss in 27 Roland Garros semifinal or final matches (26-0 previously).
  • Novak Djokovic, with a win on Sunday, will become the first man to win at least two titles at all four majors, called the “Double Slam.”
  • Djokovic is the first man to beat Nadal at Rolad Garros after losing the first set. Rafa’s only two previous losses were when he lost the first set, in 2009 and 2015.

Novak Djokovic is doing things no one else has done in tennis. A win Sunday gives him a dramatically higher place in tennis lore.