Swiss eighth seed Stan Wawrinka has scuppered home hopes for another year with a gruelling four-set French Open semi-final win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Wawrinka overcame blisters, searing heat and a threatening mid-match fightback from the 14th seed to prevail 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in a tense three-hour, 46-minute battle on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Eyeing his second grand slam crown in less than 18 months, the 2014 Australian Open champion will face either world No.1 Novak Djokovic or third seed Andy Murray in Sunday’s final.
Not since Yannick Noah in 1983 has a Frenchman hoisted the Musketeers Cup and the long wait continues after Tsonga suffered his frustrating fifth consecutive grand slam semi-final defeat since losing to Djokovic in his only final in Melbourne in 2008.
While Tsonga will rue squandering 16 of 17 break-point chances, Wawrinka now has the chance to join celebrated countryman Roger Federer as only the second man in the past decade to reign in Paris.
After emerging from Federer’s shadow with his breakthrough triumph in Australia, where he upset nine-times French Open champion Rafael Nadal in the final, Wawrinka also dumped his Davis Cup-winning teammate from Roland Garros this week in a last-eight boilover.
In another clutch performance on Friday, Wawrinka crunched 16 aces and 60 clean winners to shatter Tsonga on a big stage for the second time in seven months.
He also beat Tsonga in the opening rubber of Switzerland’s Davis Cup final victory over France last November before the Frenchman was sidelined until March with a forearm injury.
Just five tournaments into his comeback, Tsonga was bidding to venture at least one step further than his 2013 semi-final loss in Paris to David Ferrer.
Wawrinka, though, was not to be denied and on Sunday will attempt to become the first man since Mats Wilander 33 years ago to win the title after capturing the junior championship at Roland Garros.
After snaring the first break of the match with a signature down-the-line backhand winner in the fourth game, Wawrinka took the opening set and looked to be cruising after forging a 4-2 advantage in the second.
But one poor service game from the Swiss turned the match in a twinkling.
Back on serve and growing in confidence, Tsonga forced the tiebreaker and rolled through it 7-1 to have the semi-final on level terms again.
Wawrinka was under the pump from the off in the third set, having to fight off more break points in the opening game.
He also required treatment for blisters on his racquet hand after holding for 2-1 and then sought another medical during the following changeover.
But he soldiered on, claimed the pivotal third-set tiebreaker and then a crucial third service break early in the fourth set to have Tsonga on the ropes.
Wawrinka finally progressed to the final on his 11th trip to Paris when Tsonga dumped a forehand return into the net on the Swiss’s first match point.