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Djokovic outlasts Nadal in classic Wimbledon semifinal

Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his Wimbledon men's semi final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal on Saturday, July 14, in London. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters

LONDON—Serbia's Novak Djokovic reached his fifth Wimbledon final as he resisted everything great rival Rafael Nadal could throw at him to win 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-8, in a two-day classic that concluded in nerve-jangling tension on Saturday, July 14.

With women's singles finalists Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber waiting in the locker room, Djokovic and Nadal hogged the stage as they continued where they left off the night before under the Center Court roof.

Their record-extending 52nd career clash had been halted on a knife edge on Friday, July 13, by Wimbledon's 11 p.m. curfew after three-time champion Djokovic had saved three set points in a gripping third-set tiebreak to move two sets to one ahead.

When play resumed, still under cover despite the sunny weather, the quality of the tennis scaled the heights.

The fifth set alone lasted 91 minutes before Nadal finally buckled and a rejuvenated Djokovic advanced to his first Grand Slam final for two years, in which he will be favorite against South African No. 8 seed Kevin Anderson.

"It's hard to pick the words, I am just going through things that flash back—the last 15 months, everything I have been through to get here," said 12-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, who has suffered a career-slump in the past 18 months.

"It's very special. It really could have gone either way. It was clear very few things separated the two players. Until the last shot I didn't know if I was going to win."

The match duration of five hours 15 minutes made it the second-longest Wimbledon semifinal after the six-hour-36-minute marathon won by Anderson against John Isner on Friday.

"Hopefully we can both play! It's been a roller-coaster for him in the last couple of rounds but he had a day off and that means a lot. I wish I had one," Djokovic said.