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Nadal outlasts Djokovic in French Open epic

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PARIS (AP) -- Rafael Nadal won an epic semifinal against Novak Djokovic at the French Open to remain the King of Clay -- for another couple of days, at least.

Seven-time champion Nadal twice let a lead slip away in the fourth set Friday, then came from behind in the fifth to beat the No. 1-ranked Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7.

Djokovic blew an easy overhead on the opening point on the final game and went on to lose serve at love, sending his final forehand long.

Nadal improved to 58-1 at Roland Garros, including five wins over Djokovic. The French Open remains the only major title Djokovic has yet to win.

Nadal's trying to become the first man to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam event. On Sunday, he'll play the winner of the semifinal between Spaniard David Ferrer plays Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is trying to become the first Frenchman in 30 years to win the title.

In the women's final Saturday, No. 1-ranked Serena Williams seeks her first French Open title since 2002 when she faces defending champion Maria Sharapova, who is 2-13 against her nemesis.

They'll be hard-pressed to generate the sort of seesaw drama created by Nadal and Djokovic. In the fourth set Nadal twice was a break up, and twice found himself two points from victory, but Djokovic summoned his best tennis of the day and won 10 of the final 13 points in the set to even the match.

A rattled Nadal double-faulted in the first game of the final set, and Djokovic broke to take the lead. But there were more plot twists to come.

Serving at 4-3 in the fifth set, Djokovic came forward to hit a putaway, but his momentum carried him into the net and he lost the point. Three points later he drove a forehand into the net to lose the game and even the score once again.

As the tension built, Nadal pulled off the shot of the day -- and perhaps the tournament -- in the 14th game of the set. Retreating for a lob, he flicked the ball on the run between his legs with his back to the net. That left Djokovic with an easy overhead, but he dumped it in the net, and the crowd roared at the improbable sequence.

The mistake didn't cost Djokovic, who won the game on the next point for 7-all. But the next blown overhead did, and it appeared to shake him as he lost the next three points and the match.

The last shot came 4 hours, 37 minutes after the first. A triumphant Nadal grinned, threw an uppercut and answered the fans' roar with applause for them. Then he gestured graciously toward the defeated Djokovic.

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