The streak is over. Long live the king.
Novak Djokovic’s record-threatening run of 43 straight matches without a loss is finished courtesy of Roger Federer, who won 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) in Friday’s semifinal showdown at the French Open.
In what’s certain to be called the greatest victory of his career outside of a Grand Slam final, Federer outlasted Djokovic over three hours and 39 minutes amid an electric atmosphere on Court Philippe Chatrier. By the time Federer boomed his 18th ace on match point, it was 9:37 p.m. local time.
Federer advances to face Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s final (9 a.m. ET, NBC). The longtime rivals have met 24 times, but it will mark their first meeting in a Grand Slam final in two-and-a-half years.
Here’s video of match point, followed by a full minute-by-minute analysis of the match:
3:37 p.m. ET | Federer wins fourth set, 7-6(5); Federer win 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5)
Federer goes up a minibreak at 2-0 with a screaming forehand winner, but Murray gets it back at 2-2 when Federer pushes a backhand past the baseline — perhaps thrown off by a ball boy who started to move prematurely. (Echoes of Murray-Troicki?) It’s 3-3 as the players change sides. Federer goes up another minibreak as Djokovic pulls his shirt above his head in agony, then booms another ace to go up 5-3. Another booming serve that Djokovic can’t return and Federer is up 6-3 with three match points. Djokovic closes it to 6-4 with a netcord-aided return that Federer can’t reach, then makes it 6-5 with an ace. Crowd in crescendo as Federer serves for the match. Ace. And he does it. Federer emits a shout to no one in particular, walks slowly toward the net and meets Djokovic for a handshake. Federer all smiles.
3:29 p.m. ET | Set tied 6-6
Djokovic jumps ahead 30-0 but Federer wins two quick points to pull within two points of the victory. At 30-30, Djokovic yanks Federer all over the baseline before kissing a cheeky drop shot to set up game point. Federer forces deuce but Djokovic holds to set up a fourth-set tiebreak. Probably the last tennis we’ll see today.
3:20 p.m. ET | Federer leads 6-5
This is tennis at the highest level: brutal, taxing rallies that are pushing both players to the limit. Federer falls behind 30-40 and gives Djokovic a vital break-point chance, but pounds another 112-m.p.h. second-serve ace to force deuce. After netting another backhand, Federer saves another break point with another ace, then goes on to hold when Djokovic hits a backhand long. Another “Come on!” from Fed. Deafening noise on Chatrier, but it’s really getting dark now.
3:15 p.m. ET | Set tied 5-5
And how about this! Djokovic immediately falls behind 0-40 on his serve. Federer can’t take advantage of the first or second break points — briefly falling to 3-for-24 (!) on break-point opportunities — but he doesn’t waste the third chance, crushing a forehand to break back and level the set at five games apiece.
3:12 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 5-4
Federer pushes a forehand long to fall behind 0-30 on his serve, but pulls within 15-30 by outlasting Djokovic in a 19-stroke rally. At 30-30, Federer pounds a 111-m.p.h. second serve for an ace, but nets a backhand on the next point for the first deuce in an eternity. Crowd buzzing in anticipation. More nervy play from both sides. It’s Federer who blinks: On the fifth deuce, Djokovic rips a comet of a cross-court forehand just beyond Roger’s reach, then secures the crucial break when Federer shanks.
2:58 p.m. ET | Set tied 4-4
Now it’s Djokovic who holds easily. Very quick set thus far, with neither man having any trouble holding serve. If Djokovic pulls out the set, perhaps they could begin the fifth after all?
2:55 p.m. ET | Federer leads 4-3
Another easy hold for Federer, who’s only dropped one point in four service games this set. A fantastic point at 30-0 with Federer scrambling all over the terre battue like a teenager.
2:53 p.m. ET | Set tied 3-3
Djokovic falls behind 0-30 on his serve but rallies to level it at 30-30. A booming ace gives him game point, and an easy winner hands Novak the game.
2:52 p.m. ET | Federer leads 3-2
Another lightning-quick service game from Federer, who holds at love and keeps the pressure on. He’s 10-for-10 on first-serve points in the fourth set.
2:46 p.m. ET | Set tied 2-2
Make it eight straight without deuce as Djokovic holds again. Crowd seems to have been sapped of energy.
2:42 p.m. ET | Federer leads 2-1
Djokovic nets a drop shot to give Federer his second easy hold of the fourth. That’s seven games in a row without deuce.
2:38 p.m. ET | Set tied 1-1
And Djokovic returns the favor with a hold, although a dodgy one. It’s worth mentioning the pace of the match has picked up from the first set (70 minutes) to the second (45) to the third (37).
2:36 p.m. ET | Federer leads 1-0
Masterful hold of serve from the Swiss maestro to open the third set.
2:32 p.m. ET | Djokovic wins third set, 6-3; Federer leads 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6
Djokovic goes up 40-0 to line up three set points. He only needs one: winning the point, game and set with a 120-m.p.h. to Federer’s forehand side. That’s the first set Federer has dropped in the entire tournament. Roger had 22 break-point chances in the first two sets and zero in the third.
2:30 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 5-3
Federer holds at love for the fourth time today and Djokovic will serve for the third set. Maybe an hour of daylight remains. If it goes five, they’ll have to finish it Saturday morning.
2:27 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 5-2
Easy hold by Djokovic, who looks as fresh as he did in the first game of the first set. Supremely conditioned.
2:23 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 4-2
Federer keeps within a break with a clinical hold of serve. Hard to believe he’s 3-of-22 on break-point opportunities in the match and winning by two sets.
2:19 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 4-1
Djokovic holds but not without stern challenges from Federer, whose court coverage and ability to return is still absurd. Djokovic takes the game on a Federer backhand error, prompting a “Come on!”
2:14 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 3-1
Federer saves a break point at 30-40 with his 10th ace, then sets up game point with a picture-perfect drop shot. Djokovic nets the return and Roger is on the board in the third.
2:10 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 3-0
More errors from Federer and Djokovic leads 3-0. Can Novak extend this match to Saturday? You’ve got to think Nadal is pulling for it.
2:05 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 2-0
Signs of life from Djokovic, who sprints ahead 15-40 on Federer’s serve. Roger saves the first break point, but frames a backhand wide on the second to give Djokovic a glimmer of hope.
2:01 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 1-0
Just past 8 p.m. in Paris and Djokovic holds to open the third set. You know Federer, with all the momentum in the world, wants to end this one. Maybe another 90 minutes of light.
1:49 p.m. ET | Federer wins second set, 6-3; Federer leads 7-6(5), 6-3
Huge break opportunity for Djokovic at 30-40, but Federer booms an ace. (Interestingly, it’s ruled out despite cheers from the crowd; but Djokovic concedes the point before the umpire even leaves his chair.) Federer doesn’t waste his sixth set point, dictating a nine-shot rally that ends when Djokovic dumps a forehand into the net. Fist-pumping exhortations from the Swiss. The odds are really against Djokovic now: Federer is 174-0 lifetime at Grand Slams when holding a two-set lead.
1:49 p.m. ET | Federer leads 5-3
Stunningly, Djokovic falls behind 0-40 on his serve, but saves three set points to force deuce. Djokovic saves fourth and fifth set points, the former by attacking the net as Federer frames a shot into the crowd. Eventually, Novak holds. Federer will serve for the second set.
1:39 p.m. ET | Federer leads 5-2
Federer goes down 0-30 on his serve, then uncoils a 134-m.p.h. ace. Djokovic pushes a forehand wide to make it 30-30, and two more errors gift Federer the service game.
1:35 p.m. ET | Federer leads 4-2
Error after error for Djokovic, who looks as tentative as we’ve seen him in 2011. Lots of theorizing on the negative effects of the four-day layoff on Djokovic, who had a walkover in the quarters and hasn’t played since Monday. Djokovic rallies to hold but he’ll need a break sooner than later to avoid going down two sets to none.
1:29 p.m. ET | Federer leads 4-1
Federer consolidates the break. Three quick impressions from the tennis intelligentsia:
• Matt Cronin of FOXSports.com: “1 thing we have to realize is that there had to come a time in Djokovic’s wondrous year where he would have a bad match & it might be today”
• Neil Harman of the Times of London: “The record is looking distinctly vulnerable right here, right now”
• Diane Pucin of the L.A. Times: “Novak looks like the Novak who used to pack it in against the likes of Andy Roddick.”
1:28 p.m. ET | Federer leads 3-1
Djokovic falls behind 15-30. A half-hearted attempt at a volley misses the mark and gives Federer a pair of break-point chances, but two big serves from Djokovic get him out of trouble. Novak looks tight, with some very negative body language. A net cord lifts a Djokovic forehand over the baseline and Federer gets the break to go up 3-1. Crowd really behind him. Federer now 3-for-13 on break-point opportunities.
1:21 p.m. ET | Federer leads 2-1
Federer holds at love. Clouds obscure already dimming light at 7:15 Paris time.
1:19 p.m. ET | Set tied 1-1
Djokovic holds easily as the wind appears to have calmed.
1:15 p.m. ET | Federer leads 1-0
Federer saves a break point with an ace and goes on to hold. Between sets, Bad Gilbert tweeted what everybody’s thinking: “Just a thought, we’ve only got about 2hrs 10min of light left, don’t think we could squeeze in a 5 setter tonight…carry over would be bad”
1:09 p.m. ET | Federer wins first set, 7-6(5)
Both players hold through the first three points of the tiebreak, including a 126-m.p.h. ace from Federer. Roger goes up a minibreak at 3-1 on a Djokovic backhand error (a rare moment of flat-footedness from the Serb), but Novak gets them back on serve at 4-3 with a impossibly angled backhand winner. Federer gets a set point with Djokovic serving at 5-6, and Djokovic fires a forehand into the net after a six-shot rally. First set to Federer, who’s still yet to drop a set at Roland Garros this year.
12:59 p.m. ET | Set tied 6-6
Exactly one hour into the match, the first set will be decided by a tiebreaker as Federer holds easily. BBC Sport’s Piers Newbery reports chants of “Roger! Roger!” on Chatrier.
12:53 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 6-5
Serving at 15-30, Djokovic gets a warning from the chair umpire for a delayed serve. He wins the next point with a calm volley, then had a few choice words for the umpire — drawing whistles and jeers from the Parisian crowd. At 30-30, an incredible 27-shot rally ends with a Federer unforced error on a backhand. Djokovic wins the next point to hold and Federer will serve to force a first-set tiebreaker.
12:43 p.m. ET | Set tied 5-5
Bad miss from Federer, who frames a shot at 15-30 to give Djokovic two set points. He comes back with a vicious forehand that Djokovic can’t reach to pull within 30-40, then a 122-m.p.h. serve that Novak can’t get back. From there, he goes on to hold.
12:43 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 5-4
Sloppy forehand from Federer at 30-40 hands Djokovic the game. Roger will serve to stay in the first set.
12:39 p.m. ET | Set tied 4-4
Quick hold from Federer. Moving well, always on time, crushing the ball.
12:36 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 4-3
And Federer breaks right back. Lots of crowd support for the Swiss. Lots of bad bounces too. Remember: they elected not to sweep the court after the Rafael Nadal-Andy Murray match so they could get the second semifinal started in time to finish before sundown.
12:32 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 4-2
A sequence of fantastic returns of serve by Djokovic, who goes up a break on Federer with a laser-guided inside-out backhand return in the sixth game of the match — and he doesn’t even look like he’s playing his best. Djokovic now 2-for-2 on break-point chances; Federer is 1-for-8.
12:28 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 3-2
Another break-point chance at 30-40 for Federer, but Djokovic saves it with a crushing inside-out forehand that Roger backhands into the net. Djokovic then booms an ace and takes the game on a Federer forehand error. The Serb has faced break points in each of his first three service games.
12:20 p.m. ET | Set tied 2-2
Quick hold at love for Federer: booming serves, exquisite backhand volleys. Roger looking sharp.
12:18 p.m. ET | Djokovic leads 2-1
With Federer serving at 1-1, Djokovic makes three quick errors to give Federer three more break points, but fights back from 40-0 to deuce. The ball is really flying on both players in this wind; lots of errors long. Djokovic ultimately holds after six deuces.
12:04 p.m. ET | Set tied 1-1
And Djokovic breaks right back. Tennis coach Nick Bollettieri tweets: “No matter what anyone says there is more pressure on #Djokovic”
12:01 p.m. ET | Federer leads 1-0
Djokovic goes down 0-30, then hits a forehand long after a 12-stroke rally to give Federer three early break-point chances. After pulling within 15-40, Djokovic hits a forehand wide to give Federer the early break. Djokovic glares into the crowd in the direction of a spectator who made a loud noise right as he met the ball. It’s just the third time Djokovic has been broken in the entire tournament.
11:50 a.m. ET | Pre-match
Rafael Nadal called it: “The best player of the world today against the best player [in] history.”
If that’s not an endorsement for Friday’s second men’s semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, what is?
The stakes are high for Federer, who is hoping to prove there’s room for three in the top tier of men’s tennis. But they’re stratospheric for Djokovic, who can nail down the No. 1 ranking (as S.L. Price mentioned in his preview), equal John McEnroe’s record for a season-opening winning streak at 42-0 and earn a shot at his first French Open title against Nadal, who knocked off Andy Murray in Friday’s first semifinal.