World number one Novak Djokovic handed nine-time champion Rafa Nadal only his second defeat in 11 years at Roland Garros to reach the semi-finals of the French Open.

Djokovic, who is yet to lift the trophy at Roland Garros, progressed 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 at the expenses of Nadal who had won the French Open for the last five years.

Nadal's only previous defeat came in 2009 when the Mallorcan was knocked out in the fourth round by Swede Robin Soderling.

"He is still a champion," Djokovic, who celebrated calmly, told a courtside interviewer in French.

"The tactic was to be aggressive and focused on every point, but it is not easy to do when you play against Rafa here."

Nadal, who was only seeded sixth after a slow start to the season, said, "I'm going to come back next year and I am going to try to be competitive, to try to be better prepared than this year".

Murray has reached the French Open semi-finals for the third time [Getty Images]

Djokovic will take on British third-seed Andy Murray for a place in Sunday's final.

Murray preserved his 100 percent claycourt record in 2015 with a 7-6, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 win over Spanish warrior David Ferrer.

A backhand volley winner gave Murray the first set, and after squandering a match point in the third set, the British third seed sealed his 15th successive win on red dirt with an unreturnable serve.

Results:

3-Andy Murray (Britain) beat 7-David Ferrer (Spain) 7-6(4) 6-2 5-7 6-1 

1-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) beat 6-Rafa Nadal (Spain) 7-5 6-3 6-1

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies