It took all of five hours but at the end Rafael Nadal passed the stiff test posed by Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6 6-7 6-4.
This means that Nadal will be up against another former No.1, Roger Federer, who booked his place in Sunday’s final with a three-set win over compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka on Thursday.
Predictably, there was a standing ovation for both players after a true slugging match that was high on quality and endurance. The final point was a microcosm of the whole match as Nadal had three match points but finally Dimitrov hit a backhand too long and it was over.
Nadal prostrated thereafter on the court as he surely savoured what had just transpired. The Spaniard is into his first Grand Slam final since 2014 and that final would be against a true friend in Federer.
It was a rivalry that dominated tennis for a decade – Roger Federer won 17 Grand Slam titles while Rafael Nadal won 14 – nine of which were on the clay of French Open. In head-to-head, Nadal holds the advantage at 23-11.
And now in 2017, the inexplicable has happened where two former No.1s, in their 30s, get another chance to show the world that 30 is now the new 20.