He becomes the first player in history to beat Nadal at all four of the majors.
PARIS — World No. 1 Novak Djokovic beat nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal here for the first time in seven career tries, a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 winner in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
It marks only the second loss in 72 career matches at Roland Garros for Nadal, champion here from 2005-08 and again in 2010-2014.
"I had my moments, but in general, Novak (was) under control most of the time," said Nadal, who saw his 39-match win streak in Paris snapped. "He was better than me. That's it. Here is simple: when the opponent plays better than you and is in better shape than you, then (that) can happen. That happened."
Djokovic, 28, is two match wins away from completing his career Grand Slam, already having hoisted the trophy at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
"Playing against Rafa in Roland Garros, it's a special thing; a special match," said a reflective Djokovic, who reached his 26th career semifinal at a major. "Obviously it's easier said than done when you're on the court with him (where) he has only lost once in his entire career. It's not easy to execute the plan that you prepared before the match. But I managed to do that. It's definitely a big win, a match that I will remember for a long time."
This match was the most hotly anticipated one of this tournament coming in, Nadal, who turned 29 on Wednesday, in questionable form arriving as the defending champion in Paris. Djokovic, on the other hand, has now won 27 straight matches on tour dating to early March.
He will meet Andy Murray in the semifinals, the No. 3 seed defeating 2013 finalist David Ferrer 7-6(4), 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 on Court Suzanne Lenglen Wednesday evening.
It was the 44th meeting between these modern-day tennis titans, Nadal leading their head-to-head 23-20 coming in. But Djokovic jumped to a 4-0 lead off the bat and then held off a Nadal surge, winning the first 7-5 on a missed Nadal volley.
The Serbian, an eight-time Grand Slam winner, broke serve in the seventh game of the second set, and then broke the match open from there. He held for the second and immediately broke to start the third.
Court Philippe Chatrier was eerily silent through much of the second and third sets, fans unsure of how to cheer on Djokovic, who was delivering a master class against the player who has been the ultimate teacher on this surface in the last decade.
Djokovic lost to Nadal in last year's final, as well as in the semifinals in 2013 and 2012 final. He becomes the first player in history to beat Nadal at all four of the majors.
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