Having needed two days and treatment on his leg to beat an unrelenting Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic will start Sunday’s French Open final as the hot favourite, but with his armour pierced.
The world number one, who ended the reign of nine-times champion Rafa Nadal in the quarter-finals, will take on Swiss Stan Wawrinka, as he looks to complete his grand slam collection without a rest day between his semi-final thriller and the decisive showdown.
He remains odds-on to beat the 2014 Australian Open champion Wawrinka, but the sense of inevitability is not as acute as when Nadal ruled over the Parisian outpost of Porte d’Auteuil.
Djokovic was heading for a seemingly easy win against Murray on Friday when the Briton rebelled, stretching the contest until organisers had to call a halt to the evening’s proceedings because of rain and bad light.
The players returned to court on Saturday and Djokovic ensured there was a fairly swift finish despite being taken to a fifth set.
He would, however, have welcomed a rest day, especially since he needed medical treatment on his leg after the third set on Friday.
“It wasn’t a physically easy match, that’s for sure, but I think I will be fine for the finals,” Djokovic told a news conference after beating Murray 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1.
“Whatever rest I have in me — whatever I have left in me I will put out on the court tomorrow( on Sunday), and hopefully it can be enough.
“We tend to run each other around and play a cat and mouse game, and it’s tiring. It’s exhausting to play him.”
Wawrinka only had a practice session to deal with on Saturday — not the kind of exercise that pushes your mind and body to the limit.
The eighth seed looked to be at his very best against France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday, prevailing in four sets, with his flashing backhand doing a lot of the damage.
Djokovic might have to do a lot of scurrying for the ball against Wawrinka, which could cause him trouble after the Serb said he received “treatment on one leg” on Friday.
“I went out from the court instantly as soon as I lost the third set,” he explained.
“I took my bag and asked for medical, and after that I was examined. It took some time to get to the locker room to get on the table and do the treatment.”