Top five epic matches between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Instead, the two players - and a disappointed audience - were sent home after the third set with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) following a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches.

The momentum was with Nadal but Djokovic's serve, which was so disrupted by the elbow problems that prompted him finally to have surgery in February, kept him just about out of danger.

The match lasted almost five hours and it's the longest between the two players on clay. "It was clear very few things separated us".

"In my opinion, he deserved it", Nadal said. I was too far away.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were fighting out the second longest semi-final ever played at Wimbledon on Saturday, just a day after Kevin Anderson and John Isner had set the record for the longest.

This was the first time since 2011 that Nadal has managed to reach the semis and he can surely take some solace from the fact that only three players have been able to beat him on tour this year - Maric Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Djokovic.

"It's been a roller-coaster ride for him the last couple rounds, but he had a day off, which means a lot", Djokovic said. I wish I could have had one. The affable power server has hit 172 aces over the past fortnight and reached his first grand slam final at last year's US Open final, losing in straight sets to Nadal.

Djokovic was overcome with emotion following his victory: "It's hard to pick the words [for how this feels]". I don't think he has much to lose really tomorrow. That total also was more than double the amount he's had in any match against Nadal (11, on two occasions). The other instance was in 2001.

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Spectators cheers as Kevin Anderson reacts after defeating John Isner 26-24 in the final set of their semi-final match at Wimbledon Friday.

With tiebreaks not permitted to conclude Wimbledon matches once players are knotted at six games each, Anderson and Isner were forced to play on - and on and on and on Friday - until one man took a two-game lead. It included a 23-stroke exchange and three others of at least 11.

He had break points in the 15th, 21st and 35th games of the decider before taking victory when a tired Isner, who had needed treatment for blisters on his right hand, hit long.

Nadal gifted a break back with a suddenly sloppy service game but when he struck again for 5-3 Djokovic's frustration boiled over and he began hammering the sole of his shoe with his racket.

Novak Djokovic is the overwhelming favourite to secure a fourth Wimbledon title on Sunday but he admits he feared his best days were behind him when his career nose-dived over the past year.

Suffering from pain in his back, ribs and cramping legs, Novak Djokovic was face-down beside the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, getting treatment. He also made the fourth round of the French Open and matched his career-best ranking of No. 9. Djokovic retired in that match because of a toe blister.

Growing up, the South African looked up to 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras.

Asked if it was logical to have the roof closed, the World No.1 said: "No".

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