SHANGHAI • Novak Djokovic hummed on the baseline to keep himself calm as he survived an almighty scare against 110th-ranked Mischa Zverev to reach the Shanghai Masters semi-finals yesterday.
The defending champion, who has been struggling with motivation and injuries, lost the first set and was taken to a second-set tie-break as tensions rose at the Qi Zhong Tennis Centre.
But qualifier Zverev's composure cracked as the 12-time Grand Slam winner reeled off the first four points of the tie-break and raced through the deciding set to win 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
As Zverev became increasingly dispirited, Djokovic was a picture of calm as he hummed to himself during the deciding set to keep his mind off his mistakes.
"Instead of the occasional tantrum that I used to have, I hope it's behind me, so I would switch that vibration and transform it into a tune," said the world No. 1.
"I'm trying to remember, which one was it? It wasn't any mantra. It was a famous song, actually.
"I was using it to just forget about my mistake, previous mistake. And it worked, I hope."
Djokovic's unusual tactic helped him avoid what would have been the most humiliating defeat of his season.
He also maintained his record of reaching the semi-finals in all seven visits to the tournament.
It has been a troubled few months for the Serb, who said he had lost motivation and complained of "private issues" as he suffered shock early defeats at Wimbledon and the Olympics.
He now insists he no longer cares about titles or ranking points and is concentrating only on maintaining an "optimal state of mind", a process that he compared to boiling pasta.
"(It's) like when you're trying to prepare pasta and then when it's boiling water, you just switch it down, you know, turn down the heat a little bit," he said.
"That's what you're trying to do but still keep the heat there, keep that focus, keep that momentum and trying to be in the zone and have that right intensity but just the right amount."
In the semi-finals today, Djokovic will play Spain's Roberto Bautista, who floored Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4 to send last year's runner-up crashing out.
Andy Murray kept the heat on Djokovic's world No. 1 spot as he thrashed Belgium's David Goffin 6-2, 6-2 to set up a semi-final clash against Gilles Simon, who beat Jack Sock 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).
"I thought it was a very good match," Murray said.
"There were many long games on his serve that could have gone either way. He had a few chances on my serve, so it was a tough match.
"It was a pretty long one for that scoreline but I struck the ball well and created a lot of chances on my return game.
"I felt I was controlling a lot of the rallies on my forehand. It was a good win against Goffin, who has been playing very well and had some good wins here."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN
SHANGHAI MASTERS S-FINALS
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