TURIN – Novak Djokovic is one step closer to equalling Roger Federer’s record of six titles in the season-ending ATP Finals, after he defeated American Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6) in the semi-finals on Saturday.
It was not an easy victory, however, as Fritz demonstrated great determination in recovering from a break down in the first set, while also surging to a 5-3 lead in the second.
A weary Djokovic admitted that he had to maintain his grit to clinch his hard-fought victory in 1hr 54min at the Pala Alpitour.
“I had to fight to survive,” said the Serb.
“I didn’t feel very reactive today or very comfortable. I knew coming into today’s match from yesterday’s gruelling battle against (Daniil) Medvedev I knew it would take me some time to adjust and find the dynamic movement I need against Fritz, who is one of the best servers on the Tour.”
The 35-year-old – who beat Medvedev in a 3hr 11min round-robin triumph – hit just 21 winners against the 31 from Fritz, who is 10 years younger.
“I had to be very patient, I didn’t start the second set very well,” added Djokovic.
“But I managed to break his serve at 5-4 when he was serving for the set, like when Medvedev was serving for the match yesterday. In those moments I find another gear and managed to hold my nerve and make him play another shot in the tie-break.
“I am very pleased to have overcome this one as I don’t think it was one of my best days with my tennis, but I managed to hang in there.”
Djokovic’s career record at the ATP Finals now stands at 45-17. The Serb won the trophy in 2008 and from 2012-2015.
Should he win this year’s edition undefeated, he will claim a record US$4.7 million ($6.5 million).
Djokovic will face the winner of the other semi-final clash on Saturday between Russian Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud of Norway. The result of that match was not available at press time.
Rublev fought back from a set down to beat Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Friday and said he disagreed with his opponent’s assessment of him as a player with “few tools”.
Tsitsipas said after his loss that he “didn’t really feel threatened” at any point of the match.
When asked about the comments, Rublev said: “I don’t know if I have few tools or not.
“If we go shot by shot, I think his backhand is better than mine. His forehand is not better than mine. The speed serve is not better than mine.
“I don’t think that I beat him because of few tools. If you take our matches, every match, we have tough battles.” AFP, REUTERS