CINCINNATI (AFP) - Novak Djokovic left it late to secure a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Marin Cilic and reach a sixth final at the ATP-WTA Cincinnati Masters on Saturday (Aug 18).
The Serb who has lost in five previous finals is hoping to re-write a line in the record books by becoming the first man to win titles at all of the nine Masters 1000 events.
"Hopefully, I can get it done this time," he said.
He'll line up in Sunday's title match against seven-time champion Roger Federer, who was leading 7-6 (7-3), 1-1 when David Goffin retired with an injury from their semi-final after 62 minutes on Saturday. The Belgian needed treatment for a shoulder problem after losing the opening set.
Djokovic had to work for more than two and a half hours to overcome Cilic, the 2016 champion in the hard-court US Open tune-up event.
Djokovic only secured his defeat of Cilic late in the final set, breaking for 5-3 and finishing off the hard-fought victory in the next game.
"It's tough, I'm very pleased to reach the final once more here," Djokovic said.
"It was a roller-coaster match," added the Wimbledon champion, who admitted he was distracted my loud music coming from outside the court early in the third set.
"It's been a difficult week with rain delays and all that was happening. I've been down in my last three matches but I've come back.
"Just a few points today decided it," added Djokovic, who saved nine of 12 break points and broke Cilic four times.
Djokovic's victory ended a two-match win streak against the Serb for Cilic, who had lost his first 14 of their clashes.
"I realised that he (Goffin) was not serving very big," Federer said. "But it was only after he was treated that I knew something might be wrong.
"I could see that he was unhappy, but I thought he was going to play on."
The Swiss was not distressed to get a quick win. "I'm gonna recover for tomorrow. This match was erratic at the start with hardly any rallies.
"But it got better towards the end, I'm glad my serve has worked well all week. "I'm happy today was fairly easy."
Djokovic leads a rivalry, which dates to 2006, by a thin 23-22 margin with the Serb winning three of their last four meetings. Federer won their only previous final here in 2015 in straight sets.
In the women's draw, Dutch outsider Kiki Bertens reached her third final of the season as she wore down a tiring Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
The world No. 17 defeated the two-time Wimbledon winner for the second week in a row after scoring a third-round win in Montreal.
Bertens, winner of a clay-court title in Charleston earlier this year and runner-up to Kvitova in Madrid, will fight for the title against world No. 1 Simona Halep, who was aiming to make it third time lucky in Cincinnati after beating Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka 6-3, 6-4 to reach the final.
Bertens, who played and won two matches on Friday after rain interruptions this week, looked the fitter of the two players in hot, humid conditions.
"I'm feeling great, I'm so happy to win," she said after advancing on her first match point as Kvitova slammed a forehand into the net.
"It was a tough match, but I'm so glad to be in the final.