Djokovic ousts Fed­erer in epic Paris semi-fi­nal

Stabroek News Sunday - - STABROEK SPORT -

PARIS, (Reuters) - No­vak Djokovic ru­ined Roger Fed­erer’s am­bi­tions of a 100th ca­reer ti­tle as he out­lasted his great ad­ver­sary 7-6(6) 5-7 7-6(3) in an epic Paris Masters semi-fi­nal that stretched his re­mark­able un­beaten run to 22 matches yes­ter­day.

In a 47th meet­ing be­tween the two greats, the stub­born Djokovic sim­ply re­fused to be beaten as he eked out a fourth suc­ces­sive vic­tory over Fed­erer in a tiebreak de­cider af­ter three com­pelling hours.

It gave the Ser­bian the op­por­tu­nity to mark his re­turn to world num­ber one on Mon­day by win­ning a record-ex­tend­ing fifth Paris ti­tle in Sun­day’s fi­nal against Rus­sian Karen Khachanov, who ear­lier crushed Do­minic Thiem 6-4 6-1.

Djokovic, who had com­plained of com­pet­ing with flu-like symp­toms in his pre­vi­ous matches this week, was proud and re­lieved to re­pel a won­der­ful chal­lenge from Fed­erer, who ap­peared close to his im­pe­ri­ous best.

“We’ve had epic matches through­out our ri­valry but this one def­i­nitely ranks as one of the best matches we played. High qual­ity ten­nis,” Djokovic told re­porters.

“Next to the match I played against (Rafa) Nadal in the Wim­ble­don semis, this was def­i­nitely the most ex­cit­ing match I’ve played this year, and prob­a­bly the best qual­ity match that I was part of.”

Even though he was not bro­ken once, it was still not enough for the 37-year-old Swiss, whose nerve failed him in an anti-cli­mac­tic fi­nal tiebreak in which he served a dou­ble fault and made two more care­less ground­stroke er­rors.

“For the most part I can be happy, my level was good, but los­ing is never fun,” said Fed­erer. “It’s in­tense, it’s good ten­nis, we care about win­ning, we don’t like los­ing. I can tell you that right now.” “No­vak is ob­vi­ously on a roll. You can feel it.” Fed­erer was seek­ing to be­come only the sec­ond man af­ter Jimmy Con­nors to win a cen­tury of pro­fes­sional tour ti­tles fol­low­ing his 99th win in Basel, only to fall ag­o­nis­ingly short.

The 20-time Grand Slam cham­pion lost the first set de­spite hav­ing held set point in the tiebreak and had Djokovic in trou­ble in the fi­nal set when the Serb re­ceived a code vi­o­la­tion at 4-4 for chuck­ing his racket away in dis­gust af­ter the Swiss had saved two break points.

Ul­ti­mately, though, Fed­erer, who saved all 12 break points on his serve, saw his re­silience ended as Djokovic ex­tended his ca­reer lead over the Swiss to 25-22 af­ter their long­est-ever three-set duel.

It was the first time in their 12 years of bat­tling that Djokovic had won four matches in suc­ces­sion against Fed­erer, equalling the run that the Swiss him­self had once achieved at the dawn of their ri­valry.

Ear­lier, Khachanov showed why he is one of the finest young tal­ents in ten­nis with a thun­der­ous vic­tory over Thiem.

The 22-year-old, 6ft 6in Rus­sian, al­ready the owner of two in­door hard court ti­tles this year, crushed his Aus­trian friend and prac­tice part­ner in 70 one-sided min­utes.

“It was one of my best matches, and what I’m happy about is that I was in­creas­ing my level, which shows that I’m be­com­ing a bet­ter player,” Khachanov, who reached his first Masters 1000 fi­nal, said.

The 18th ranked Mus­covite over­pow­ered a third top-10 player in suc­ces­sive days, hav­ing ham­mered Alexan­der Zverev in the quar­ters and de­feated John Is­ner in the last-16.

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