Novak Djokovic battles past Ernests Gulbis in four sets to reach French Open final
Last Updated: 06/06/14 11:28pm
Second seed Novak Djokovic remains on course to claim a first French Open title after overcoming Ernests Gulbis in four sets in the semi-finals.
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 and book a place in the final against Rafa Nadal.
The Serbian lost to 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.
Having seen off Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych on his way to the last four, there did not seem too much danger of the 18th seed 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 real 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 his opponent in the following game on his way to taking the set.
One break in the eighth game of the second then proved sufficient for Djokovic, who was only having to find top 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 at the start of 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 so it proved, Djokovic taking control of the rallies to force a break point in the eighth game before Gulbis sent a backhand long.
That left the second seed serving for the match, and closed things out in style, holding to love.