Djokovic defeated Nadal in a four-set thriller, ending Nadal’s run of 26 wins in the semi-finals and beyond on the clay courts of Paris, to book his spot in the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
It was a match full of twists and turns, particularly in a thrilling 92-minute third set.
The atmosphere was buzzing but it looked as if the match would end in front of an empty stadium, as was the case in Djokovic’s quarter-final win over Matteo Berrettini.
In that match, Djokovic and his Italian opponent had to leave the court while fans were ejected due to the 11pm curfew currently active in Paris.
But before the clock struck 11pm on Friday night, with the match on a knife edge, French supporters were left delirious after the authorities announced they could stay beyond the curfew to watch the end of the match.
‘In agreement with the public authorities, the match will be able to go to an end with the spectators, it is a tolerance granted given the completely exceptional nature of the circumstances,’ said the announcer, who was met with cheers by the crowd.
ITV commentator and former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli claimed that French Prime Minister Jean Castex was watching at home and as Djokovic went to the bathroom after the third set he called in and issued Roland Garros an exemption, allowing the fans to remain until the end.
But it appeared French President Emmanuel Macron was the man getting the credit among the stands.
‘Merci, Macron,’ rang around Philippe Chatrier as they watched this historic night reach its conclusion.
Djokovic and Nadal were both delighted the supporters could remain until the end.
‘Definitely the best match that I was part of ever in Roland Garros for me, and top three matches that I ever played in my entire career, considering quality of tennis, playing my biggest rival on the court where he has had so much success and has been the dominant force in the last 15- plus years, and the atmosphere which was completely electric,’ said Djokovic. ‘For both players, a lot of support. Just amazing.
‘I was very happy that there was no curfew, 11:00. I heard there was a special waiver, so they allowed the crowd to stay. Just one of these nights and matches that you will remember forever.’
Nadal added: ‘Have been amazing, the support, no? I can’t thank enough the feelings. I have been super tired some moments, but the crowd gave me some energy to keep going, no?
‘Yeah, it’s super emotional for me to feel the love of the people in the most important place of my tennis career, without a doubt. So thanks a lot to them.’
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