Novak Djokovic took a giant step towards a first French Open title yesterday by ousting the reigning champion, Rafa Nadal from his favourite tournament. A career Grand Slam for the Serbian now seems a distinct likelihood, but first he will have to overcome his friend Andy Murray in the semi-finals. Murray also scaled new heights by beating David Ferrer for the first time on clay in his quarter-final.

Great rivalry

Theirs is one of the great rivalries in world Tennis: Djokovic versus Nadal. Yesterday's match in the quarter-finals was the seventh time they had met at the French Open, the 44th time in total.

Nadal had won each time on his beloved clay in Paris.

Yet the apparent air of invincibility that has swept away his opponents since 2005 (apart from 2009) at the French seems to be on the wane. The Spaniard's form has been inconsistent and with it his ranking has suffered. That explains why such a high profile encounter was only at the quarter-finals and not in the final itself, as it had been previously in 2012 and 2014.

Destiny for the Serbian?

Djokovic's apparent destiny to become only the eighth man to win all four Grand Slams looms ever closer, after his comprehensive dismantling of Nadal 7-5 6-3 6-1. The contest seemingly hinged on the crucial first set, although it was a familiar story as the world number one raced into a 4-0 lead.

Nadal drew on his experience to level at 4-4 and thoughts returned to his nine triumphs in the French capital. The Spaniard saved set points in the tenth game but finally succumbed to the mounting pressure in the twelfth to hand Djokovic the set.

After that the result seemed pre-ordained, as the Serbian grew in strength and Nadal reverted to his diminished form this season.

Set two was more comfortable for Djokovic, with a break in the eighth game proving sufficient to take it. Set three became a procession, with Nadal narrowly avoiding the 'bagel' after falling 4-0 behind, as his supporters applauded him with a tinge of sympathy thrown in.

Murray through in four sets

Murray may provide a stronger test in the semi-finals after he defeated the other Spanish master of clay, Ferrer in their last-eight clash.

The Brit needed four sets before coming through 7-6 6-2 5-7 6-1, thereby extending his winning streak on clay to a highly commendable 15 matches. In the world of brinkmanship, Djokovic has the upper hand with a 27-match streak of his own and what's more in defeating Nadal, he ended the Spaniard's 39-match win streak at the French Open.

The Scot was the better player for most of his encounter with Ferrer. Both players exchanged service breaks freely in the first set, extending it into a tie-break that Murray commanded. Set two also went to the world number three as his recent form began to re-assert itself and a straight sets victory seemed on the cards.

Tenacity is a strong suit for Ferrer though and he seized on Murray's inability to convert a match point in the third set, breaking back and then repeating the feat to narrow his deficit to 2-1 behind.

Normal service was resumed in the fourth set though, with Murray this time making no mistake after three and a quarter hours of competitive tennis.

Favourite tag?

Djokovic will be the firm favourite to come through their semi-final tussle, yet Murray does seem a different player after his marriage to Kim Sears and especially on clay. Positive thinking will be key to his chances, after losing to Djokovic the last seven times they have faced each other.