Stan Wawrinka stands between Novak Djokovic and a place among the legends of tennis at Roland Garros on Sunday (11pm AEST).
Djokovic has a third opportunity to become one of only eight men in history to complete the career grand slam with victory over the eighth seed in the French Open final in Paris.
The world No.1 is suitably wary of Wawrinka after losing to the Swiss at last year’s Australian Open and with the pair’s last four grand slam meetings going the distance.
But unlike 2012 and 2014, when Djokovic also attempted to reach his Holy Grail, it is a first-time French Open finalist – and not nine-times champion Rafael Nadal – blocking his path.
The top seed removed Nadal in the quarter-finals before surviving a fierce fightback from Andy Murray to advance to the championship match with a rollercoaster 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1 victory over the Scot.
The epic semi-final started on Friday and finished on Saturday after a severe storm warning forced an overnight suspension of play with the match on a knife edge at 3-all in the fourth set.
Djokovic admits the dramatic semi took a toll but is hoping to be fine for one last push against Wawrinka, who trails the Serbian dominator 17-3 in career meetings.
“Regarding our encounters, this is one of the toughest ones we had, no doubt about that,” Djokovic said after denying Murray just as he did in this year’s Australian Open final.
“Five sets over four hours; it’s always physical. It’s always demanding from every aspect of the game because we have similar styles of play.
“We tend to run each other around and play a cat-and-mouse game, and it’s tiring. It’s exhausting to play him.
“Whatever rest I have in me – whatever I have left in me – I will put out on the court tomorrow, and hopefully it can be enough.”
Nadal, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Don Budge and Fred Perry are the only men to have won all four majors at least once in their careers.
Boasting an open-era record five titles from Australia, two Wimbledon crowns and a US Open trophy, Djokovic craves becoming the eighth member of the exclusive club on Sunday.
Wawrinka has his own agenda.
The 2003 junior champion in Paris, the 30-year-old can follow Mats Wilander in 1982 in completing a rare double by lifting the men’s trophy.
Forever living in Federer’s shadow, Wawrinka can also join his legendary countryman as well as Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Lleyton Hewitt as the only active player to have won multiple majors.
And he knows he’s capable, having already upstaged Djokovic and then Nadal to win the 2014 Australian Open and now Federer and Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to make the final at Roland Garros.
Djokovic holds no fears for the Swiss.
“I know that he’s not always happy to play me when I can play my game. When I can play my aggressive game, he’s not feeling his best normally,” Wawrinka said.
“So I will have to focus on myself and try to bring my `A’ game.
“He’s been amazing so far this year winning every big title, playing his best test tennis ever,” Wawrinka said.
“But he’s never won (the) French Open. For sure we are both going to be nervous. That’s a fact.
FACTS AHEAD OF THE MEN’S FRENCH OPEN FINAL
1-NOVAK DJOKOVIC (SRB) leads 8-STAN WAWRINKA 17-3
Djokovic leads 4-1 in grand slams
2015 Australian Open, hard, SF, Djokovic 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-0
2014 Australian Open, hard, SF, Wawrinka 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7
2013 US Open, hard, SF, Djokovic 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-3 6-4
2013 Australian Open, hard, R16, Djokovic 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 12-10
2012 US Open, hard, R16, Djokovic 6-4 6-1 3-1 retired
Born: Belgrade, Serbia
Lives: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US78,397,032 ($A100.83 million)
Career titles: 53
Career win-loss record: 645-142
Grand slam titles: 8 (Australian Open 2008, 2011-2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2011, 2014; US Open 2011)
Career grand slam win-loss record: 186-33
French Open win-loss record: 48-10
Best French Open performances: finalist 2012, 2014, 2015
Road to final
1st rd: bt Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 6-2 7-5 6-2
2nd rd: bt Gilles Muller (LUX) 6-1 6-4 6-4
3rd rd: bt Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 6-4 6-4 6-4
4th rd: bt 20-Richard Gasquet (FRA) 6-1 6-2 6-3
bt 6-Rafael Nadal (ESP) 7-5 6-3 6-1
bt 3-Andy Murray (GBR) 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1
Born: Lausanne, Switzerland
Lives: St Barthelemy, Switzerland
Career prize money: $US15,790,548 ($A20.31 million)
Career singles titles: 9
Career win-loss record: 365-223
Grand slam titles: 1 (Australian Open 2014)
Career grand slam win-loss record: 88-38
French Open win-loss record: 26-10
Best French Open performance: finalist 2015
Road to final
1st rd: bt Marsel Ilhan (TUR) 6-3 6-2 6-3
2nd rd: bt Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-3
3rd rd: bt Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4 6-3 6-2
4th rd: bt 12-Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-1 6-4 6-2
bt 2-Roger Federer (SUI) 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-4)
bt 14-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4