Novak Djokovic loses in quarterfinals at Paris Masters
Five months after his first French Open title and completing a career Grand Slam in Paris, Novak Djokovic's reign over men's tennis could be about to end in the City of Lights.
Djokovic, a three-time defending champion, lost in the Paris Masters quarterfinals on Friday, leaving his No. 1 ranking open to being snatched by Andy Murray.
Murray can rise from No. 2 to 1 in the ATP list for the first time if he reaches the final. The Briton was up against Tomas Berdych late for a semifinal spot at the indoor tournament.
So dominant on the Parisian red clay last June, Djokovic was far from his best on super-fast carpet and was beaten by Marin Cilic 6-4, 7-6 (2), his first loss against the former U.S. Open champion in 15 matchups.
Hampered by a lingering right hand injury, Djokovic made uncharacteristic mistakes from the baseline, called the tournament doctor during the first set, struggled with consistency on his serve, and destroyed his hopes of a comeback when he served for the second set at 5-4, hit two double faults, and was broken.
He fought until the end though, saving two match points in the 12th game with a fine backhand volley and crosscourt forehand winner, the rare moments when he looked like his usual self. But Cilic, who struck nine aces overall, served extremely well to prevail in the tiebreaker and end Djokovic's 17-match winning streak in Paris.
"I wasn't on the level that I could have been on," Djokovic said. "I was also, in this kind of circumstances and with this level of play, in a good position to take the match into the third set, and then two double faults. Just in important moments I wasn't able to deliver. He is a deserved winner."
Djokovic has been the dominant player for six seasons, and held the top spot for 122 consecutive weeks.
But his form has been erratic over the past few months, and he did not play in Paris with the confidence he showed here last year, when he crushed Murray 6-2, 6-4 in the final.
After winning the elusive French Open for the first time in June, his form yo-yoed.
He lost in the third round at Wimbledon to American Sam Querrey, and in the first round of the Olympics to Juan Martin del Potro. At the U.S Open, he won the first set in the final but Stan Wawrinka rallied to beat him.
"Of course, there was pride and satisfaction in the success I have had with my team, but in the other hand, it was also very exhausting," he said. "At a certain point, I had to reach this kind of phase where I had to reflect and say, 'OK, I have played on the highest possible level for that much.' The drop of form is normal in sports. I'm not too concerned about how the future will go for me."
If he wins the title, Murray, who has spent 76 weeks at No. 2, will become the 26th player to reach No. 1 since the rankings started in 1973.
"He's definitely a player who deserves that," Djokovic said. "Undoubtedly, much respect for what he has done. We have known each other since very, very early days. We were, I think, 11 years old when we first played against each other.
“And to see how he has raised his level in the last 12 months is quite extraordinary."
Cilic, who qualified for the ATP Finals this week, will take on American John Isner in the semifinals.
Isner won a hard-fought allAmerican contest against Jack Sock 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-4 after throwing a big tantrum. Isner looked set for a straight-sets win when he served a break up at 4-3 in the second set but lost his cool after a foot-fault call.
Isner, who had not dropped his serve once since the start of the week, shouted at umpire Damien Dumusois, hit a double fault, and was broken twice in a row.
"I got a bit flustered out there. I just haven't seen that type of foot fault called. It was over the center line," Isner said. "The second set was gone like that (snapping fingers). That's the first time I have ever had that called on me in my career. It was a bit of a shock."