An 18-year rivalry will play out its next gripping chapter at Roland Garros as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic eye up a French Open final in which milestones galore will be on the line.
Will Murray become the first British man to lift the French Open trophy in more than eight decades?
Or will Djokovic have enough energy left in the tank after playing four days in succession at the rain-ravaged claycourt grand slam to become the first man since Rod Laver almost 50 years to hold all four majors at once?
What is certain though, is that the Musketeers’ Cup will have a new name engraved on it come Sunday – weather permitting – after Djokovic pulled rank on a player he described as “a leader of a new generation” to reach his fourth Paris final in five years.
The world No.1’s 6-2 6-1 6-4 win over Austrian tyro Dominic Thiem on Friday had to be staged on the secondary Court Suzanne Lenglen after a week of rain derailed the tournament’s usual schedule.
That left Murray and defending champion Wawrinka to grab Centre Court billing and while the Swiss conjured some blazing backhands to whip the noisy crowd into a frenzy, the winners were rare as he surrendered his Roland Garros crown with a 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2 defeat by the British second seed.
“I knew today if I wanted to win I was going to have to play one of my best claycourt matches. Stan was playing better every match,” an emotional Murray, who became the first British man to reach the Paris showpiece since Bunny Austin in 1937, told the crowd with a quivering voice.
“I am extremely proud. I never expected to reach the final here, I always struggled on the clay. I played one of my best claycourt matches today… I hope I can put on a good match on Sunday.”
Djokovic is on the precipice of history once again at the French Open, reaching the final for the fourth time in five years at the only major tournament he hasn’t won.
On court for the fourth straight day at rain-logged Roland Garros, Djokovic raced through his semi-final with a 6-2 6-1 6-4 victory over No.13 Dominic Thiem of Austria.
“Best performance of the tournament,” declared Djokovic, an 11-time major champion.
Djokovic is 0-3 in title matches at the French Open, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2012 and 2014, then Wawrinka in 2015, each time in four sets.
Back in 2012, Djokovic also was on a 27-match winning streak at Grand Slam tournaments, just as he is entering Sunday.
Succeed in making it 28 this time, and he will have pulled off a perfect run through the past four majors.