Rafael Nadal moved to within one win of equalling Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open titles with a hard-fought yet convincing 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 semifinal win over a battling Andy Murray on Friday.
It was a perfect way to celebrate his 25th birthday for the Spaniard, but he was made to scrap hard by the Scot who shrugged off the effects of an ankle injury to produce his best ever performance on clay.
The win sets up the five-times defending champion and top seed for a mouthwatering final on Sunday against the winner of the other semi-final opposing second seed Novak Djokovic and third seed Roger Federer. For Murray, his performance was a fitting way to end a brave campaign that saw him battle through illness, a twisted ankle and a broken tooth as he continued his quest for a first Grand Slam title. His only regret could be only converting three of the 18 break points he had on the Nadal serve. "Andy is a fantastic player. He deserves to win a Grand Slam very soon," said Nadal."I saved a lot of break points at important moments. The conditions were not easy with the wind changing a lot.
"I will be playing next against the best player of all time (Federer) or against the best player at the moment (Djokovic), so we shall see."
Nadal went into the match as a strong favourite having taken his record at Roland Garros to 43-1 with an impressive straight sets quarter-final victory over Robin Soderling, the only man to have beaten him here.
Murray was playing his first semifinal in his fifth campaign in Paris and he had lingering doubts over the right ankle he turned in his third round defeat of Michael Berrer.