PARIS: Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will meet in a Grand Slam title clash for a seventh time on Sunday after comprehensive semi-final triumphs swept the world’s top two players into the French Open final.
Djokovic reached his fourth final in Paris with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 demolition of Austria’s Dominic Thiem to move one match closer to a career Grand Slam.
The world number one will now tackle second seed Murray who knocked out defending champion Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
As well as the title, there will be a hefty chunk of history at stake on Sunday.
Djokovic, playing in a 20th final at the majors, is seeking a first Roland Garros crown to become just the eighth man to complete the career Slam.
Murray, also 29, can become the first British winner of the men’s title since Fred Perry in 1935.
Sunday will be Djokovic’s sixth successive Grand Slam championship match as he looks to add to his collection of 11 majors.
He already holds the Wimbledon, US and Australian Open trophies.
“The atmosphere was fantastic. It’s the first time I have played a semi-final on the Suzanne Lenglen court,” said the top seed.
“I played the best tennis of the tournament so far. I am now in the situation where I always dream of being each season, in the final of Roland Garros.”
Djokovic sprinted out to a 3-0 lead in the opener on the back of a break in the second game against 13th-seeded Thiem.
– Untouchable –
A double fault by the young Austrian opened the door for Djokovic to take the first set in the eighth game.
Djokovic was just as untouchable in the second set despite playing for a fourth successive day.
Breaks for the Serb came in the fourth and sixth games and the set was wrapped up in just 25 minutes.
Thiem, playing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, had taken just nine points off the Djokovic serve at that stage.
However, the form which had taken Thiem to a season-leading 25 match wins on clay this season, suddenly appeared as he broke and held for a 3-0 lead in the third set.
It had taken him 77 minutes to achieve his first break of the contest, much to the delight of a crowd getting value for money for their $22 ticket investment.
But Djokovic roared back, sweeping the next five games for 5-3 before 22-year-old Thiem stopped the bleeding at 4-5.
The Austrian had one last chance to prolong his afternoon with a break point in the 10th game as Djokovic served for the match.
But the world number one was not to be denied as he went to match point and converted the opportunity when Thiem slipped a backhand wide.
Murray and Djokovic have already played each other in six Grand Slam finals with Djokovic winning four times in Australia and Murray emerging on top at the US Open and Wimbledon.
“I knew that if I wanted to win I would have to play one of my best claycourt matches. Stan’s record here the last couple of years is unbelievable,” said Murray.
Murray got off to the better start, breaking serve in the third game and that proved to be enough for him to pocket the first set in a hotly-disputed 10th game where Wawrinka had break points to level.
The second set followed a similar pattern with Murray breaking in the third game, but this time the two-time major champion made it back-to-back breaks as he pulled 5-1 clear.
The Swiss player staved off two break points in the third game of the third set and he gained some energy from a centre-court crowd largely pulling for him.
Murray finally stumbled at 4-5 down with a couple of unforced errors that allowed Wawrinka to get the break he needed.
The comeback was short-lived, however, as Murray broke serve to open the fourth set and he quickly opened up a 2-0 lead.
Wawrinka then played a dismal service game to allow Murray to pull 5-2 clear and it was all over shortly after that.