Novak Djokovic will play Stefanos Tsitsipas for the Madrid Open title after the 20-year-old Greek stunned Rafael Nadal to win a thrilling semi-final 6-4 2-6 6-3 on his fourth match point.
Nadal had been a clear favourite to face Djokovic in Sunday’s showpiece at Caja Magica but the 17-time Grand Slam champion extended his stuttering build-up to the French Open with another surprise defeat.
Tsitsipas’ stunning victory on Saturday means he reaches his fourth ATP final of the season while fully vindicating those that have him circled as a future star of the men’s game.
“Emotionally it was very tough, it was one of my toughest wins,” he said.
It might be too early to expect the world number nine to challenge at Roland Garros later this month but, with a fearless style and formidable forehand, Tsitsipas is developing a habit for delivering on the big stage.
In terms of career wins, this perhaps trails only his ousting of Roger Federer from the Australian Open in January, when he went on to reach the semi-finals for his best run yet at a Grand Slam.
But, as well as Federer and Nadal, Tsitsipas has now beaten Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, both twice, and Djokovic, whom he played on hard in Canada last year and prevailed in three sets.
He will draw confidence from that result ahead of Sunday’s final but arguably even more so from overcoming Nadal, on clay, which Djokovic had earlier described as the “ultimate challenge” following his own 7-6 (7/2) 7-6 (7/4) victory over Dominic Thiem.