French Open 2014: Novak Djokovic awaits Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal in final
The Serbian won his semi-final against Ernests Gulbis over four sets
Friday 06 June 2014
Novak Djokovic reached his second French Open final with a four-set win over Ernests Gulbis.
Djokovic, who is chasing the one grand slam title still to elude him, snuffed out a fightback by his Latvian opponent to win 6-3 6-3 3-6 6-3.
The Serbian lost to Rafael Nadal in the final in 2012 and becomes just the sixth man in the Open era to make multiple finals at each slam.
The consolation for Gulbis after the best grand slam tournament of his career is he will make his top-10 debut when the rankings are updated on Monday.
Gulbis, who played at the same academy in Germany as Djokovic when both were teenagers, described his belated dedication to tennis as "jumping on the last train".
At 25, time was running out for the Latvian, who had come to the realisation that, for all he enjoyed the good life, true happiness would only come from being the best tennis player he could.
And as Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych could testify after being sent packing from Roland Garros, Gulbis is a very good tennis player.
He is also charismatic and not lacking in self confidence, so there did not seem too much danger of him freezing in his first grand slam semi-final.
However, in the first two sets he simply could not get going, making far too many errors to put any pressure on the uber consistent Djokovic.
Things started well for Gulbis, who won the first six points, and it might have been different had he taken either of two break points in the fourth game, but Djokovic held and then broke serve the following game.
One break in the eighth game of the second was enough for Djokovic, who was only having to find first gear on a few points.
That changed at the start of the third set, though, as Gulbis at last found the thumping winners and consistent aggression that had taken him this far.
Djokovic managed to stave off break points in the second and sixth games, the crowd finally seeing the exchanges they would have hoped for.
But a backhand threaded down the line gave Gulbis the break for 5-3 and he served out the set with an ace down the middle.
Djokovic looked to have taken a stranglehold once more when he broke for 2-0 in the fourth but he then played a very poor game to hand it straight back, taking his frustration out on his racquet by smashing it violently on the court.
Given Gulbis' reputation for breaking racquets, it was a surprise, and an indication of the pressure Djokovic was feeling, that he was the first to really lose his cool.
However, the Serbian rarely fails to raise his game when needed and it was the same again.
Djokovic took control of the rallies to force a break point in the eighth game and Gulbis sent a backhand long.
That left the second seed serving for the match, and he clinched it to love.
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