Novak Djokovic will play Stefanos Tsitsipas for the Madrid Open title after the 20-year-old Greek stunned Rafael Nadal on Saturday to win a thrilling semi-final 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 on his fourth match point.
Nadal had been a clear favourite to face Djokovic in Sunday’s showpiece at Caja Magica but the 17-time Grand Slam champion extended his stuttering build-up to the French Open with another surprise defeat.
Tsitsipas has now beaten Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer in his young career.
Stefanos Tsitsipas pulled off one of the biggest wins of his short but remarkable career by beating Rafael Nadal on Spanish soil to book his place in the Madrid Open final against world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
He broke Nadal six times in the epic three-setter played late into the Madrid night, lasting two hours and 34 minutes, to win 6-4 2-6 6-3.
Tsitsipas, 20, had never won a set in his previous three meetings against the 11-time French Open champion Nadal, but the Greek drew first blood by saving a break point to hold in the 10th game and take the first set.
Before Nadal met Tsitsipas, he had won 26 of 27 service games in this year’s Madrid Open, and the Spaniard had breezed past the youngster in the Barcelona Open final last season and this year’s Australian Open semifinals.
He’d also dropped just three games in a dominant quarterfinal performance against Stan Wawrinka.
Nadal won the second set and looked to have the physical edge over the Greek, who has also been playing doubles in Madrid.
But Tsitsipas, the Next Gen ATP finals champion, came back stronger in the decider with impressive court coverage and broke Nadal to take a 5-2 lead although he could not immediately serve out for the match.
He earned repeated match points in the next game when Nadal was serving and after the Spaniard had dug deep to save three of them he could only find the net on the fourth.
Tsitsipas dropped his racket and put his hands to his face to savour his first victory over the titan of clay court tennis, completing a clean sweep of wins over Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer in less than 10 months.
“It means the world, it’s really nice to be able to play this way, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Tsitsipas told reporters.
Nadal, meanwhile, was left reflecting on a third straight semifinal exit on clay after losing to Fabio Fognini in the Monte Carlo Masters and Dominic Thiem in the Barcelona Open.
Djokovic reached the final after seeing off last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem 7-6(2) 7-6(4) in a gruelling, high-quality match lasting two hours 22 minutes.
Tsitsipas beat Djokovic in the Rogers Cup in Toronto and was looking forward to another match with the Serbian.
“I’ll have to be mentally prepared for Djokovic, I’m sure he wants the title as badly as me,” he added.
Djokovic, winner in Madrid in 2011 and 2016, was fully rested after his quarterfinal opponent Marin Cilic had withdrawn because of food poisoning, while Thiem had to dig deep to beat Roger Federer in a gruelling three-setter.
Thiem, who won the Barcelona Open last month and was on an eight-match winning streak, struck an early blow by breaking Djokovic in the fourth game but the Serbian responded by winning the next three games and saved two break points in the eighth.
Djokovic had the edge in the tiebreak, earning three match points and taking the first as Thiem smashed a baseline backhand well out, booking his place in a first final since winning the Australian Open.
Image: Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates winning a point against Spain’s Rafael Nadal during their ATP Madrid Open semi-final tennis match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 11, 2019.OSCAR DEL POZO