World number two Roger Federer has claimed his place in Sunday's French Open final, beating Argentine Juan Martin del Potro three sets to two in Paris.
In a lengthy, nail-biting semifinal Federer held out to win 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, putting the Swiss player on target to capture the only grand slam title that has eluded him so far in his career.
Federer will now meet the surprise of the tournament, Sweden's Robin Söderling, seeded 23rd, in Sunday's final at Roland Garros. Söderling toppled world number one and four-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.
It took just under three and a half hours on Friday evening for Federer to get the upper hand over 20-yer-old Del Potro, who is seeded fifth. Federer had defeated Del Potro in all of their five previous encounters.
A win on Sunday would mean an historic 14th grand slam title for Federer, which would equal the record held by Pete Sampras.
Speaking as he left the court after the semi final, Federer's relief was palpable. "There is still one more step for me to make. If I win the final as well as that, I will be very good."
"I am so glad to have made it back. For a while there he played very well, maybe I was a little bit lucky but I fought," he added.
Federer was down two sets to one and tied 1-1 in the fourth set when the match turned. He then won seven consecutive games to go up 2-0 in the fifth set. But it still wasn't plain sailing as the young Argentine battled to the end.
It was Federer's second five-set win this tournament - he was also taken the distance by Tommy Haas in the fourth round - and he has squeezed through to his fourth straight final here without being on top form.
However the Swiss is the clear favourite to win the title on Sunday. The fact remains that Federer has beaten Söderling in all nine of their previous encounters even if the Swede is playing the tennis of his life at Roland Garros.
Söderling continued his remarkable run earlier on Friday by posting a 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in an epic match that lasted three hours and 28 minutes.
Federer is not only trying to match Sampras' record with a maiden win at Roland Garros but also hoping to complete the set of grand slam titles.
Last year's 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 loss to Nadal in the French Open final was a bitter blow to the Swiss, who lifted the runner-up prize for the third time in a row.
The 15,000-strong Parisian crowd were very much behind the Swiss favourite in Friday's semi final, spurring him on to achieve his dream.
Earlier this week Federer's agent announced the player's plans to hire a new coach, Australian Darren Cahill.
The two men met in Dubai to get to know each other and work out ways of working together.
Federer split with his former coach, Tony Roche, in May 2007, and has not had a permanent long-term trainer since then. He lost his top world ranking to Nadal in 2008.
swissinfo.ch with agencies
A player who holds all four grand slam titles – the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – at the same time is said to have achieved the Grand Slam. A "true" Grand Slam is when all titles are won in the same calendar year.
Rod Laver is the only male player in the open era (post-1968) to achieve a Grand Slam (which was also "true"), in 1969. Andre Agassi won all four titles but in different years (a career Grand Slam).
Grand slam titles (open era):
14: Pete Sampras
13. Roger Federer
11: Björn Borg
8: Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl
The French Open is the second grand slam event of the year and is held at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris.
The 2009 French Open offered prize money of €16,150,460 ($24,400,000), up 3.69% on 2008. As in 2008 the event awarded equal prize money to men and women in all events. The male and female singles champions each receive €1,060,000, up from one million last year.
The event began as a national tournament in 1891 as the Championnat de France International de Tennis.
In compliance with the JTI standards