Djokovic eyes chance to re­claim top rank­ing at Tour Fi­nals

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

NOVAK Djokovic booked his place in the semi-fi­nals of the ATP Tour Fi­nals with an emo­tional 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5) vic­tory over Mi­los Raonic on Novem­ber 15. De­spite hav­ing a spir­i­tual guru in his camp these days, Djokovic has been any­thing but serene lately and once again the de­fend­ing champion cut an angst-rid­den fig­ure for long pe­ri­ods of a tense clash in the pres­ti­gious sea­son-end­ing event at Lon­don’s O2 Arena.

Djokovic had re­acted fu­ri­ously af­ter be­ing grilled by the me­dia about a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous in­ci­dent when he slammed a ball into the stands dur­ing his win against Do­minic Thiem on Sun­day.

This time, the world num­ber two grum­bled over cam­era flashes from the crowd and held a fin­ger to his lips to urge them to be quiet, while moan­ing when Raonic tried some games­man­ship by tak­ing his time ty­ing up his shoelaces at a key mo­ment in the first set tie-break.

But, to his credit, Djokovic han­dled ev­ery­thing a fired-up Raonic threw at him to en­sure he re­mains on course to win the Tour Fi­nals for a fifth suc­ces­sive year and a record-equalling sixth time in to­tal.

The 29-year-old, who has now won 20 of his last 21 matches at the Tour Fi­nals, would also re­gain the num­berone rank­ing from Andy Mur­ray if he leaves south Lon­don with the sil­ver­ware.

“I man­aged to hang in there men­tally and stay strong and be­lieved that the op­por­tu­ni­ties would come and that I could take them,” Djokovic said.

“Mi­los was hang­ing in there and only one or two points sep­a­rated us in the sec­ond set.

“It could have gone ei­ther way this match. He’s such a strong player and has got fire­power.”

With Aus­tria’s Thiem hav­ing kept alive his hopes of reach­ing the semi­fi­nals with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 vic­tory over Gael Mon­fils ear­lier on Tues­day, Djokovic knew a win would seal his last four berth with one match still to play.

Gutsy Djokovic had won all seven of his pre­vi­ous en­coun­ters with Raonic, drop­ping only one set in the process, but he had his hands full with the pow­er­ful Cana­dian this time.

Wim­ble­don fi­nal­ist Raonic, who de­feated Mon­fils in his open­ing match, earned break points in the Serb’s first two ser­vice games, but Djokovic wrig­gled out of trou­ble on both oc­ca­sions and the set went to a tie-break.

De­spite serv­ing eight aces and hit­ting more than three times as many win­ners as Djokovic, Raonic just couldn’t kill him off and in the breaker an ill-timed dou­ble fault on set point gifted the first set to the Serb.

It had taken Djokovic 64 min­utes to move ahead and the 12-time Grand Slam champion wasn’t go­ing to let that ef­fort go to waste.

He broke in the first game of the sec­ond set and re­cov­ered from drop­ping serve three games later to hit back with an­other break for a 3-2 lead.

Just as the fin­ish line was in sight, Djokovic was bro­ken again in the eighth game and he had to save a set point at 5-6 to force an­other tie-break.

Djokovic was pushed hard in the breaker, but he had the an­swer on ev­ery big point and even­tu­ally wrapped up a gutsy vic­tory in two hours and 14 min­utes.

Tour Fi­nals debu­tant Thiem could join Djokovic in the last four af­ter see­ing off flam­boy­ant French­man Mon­fils.

The 23-year-old will need to de­feat Raonic in his last group match today to reach the semi-fi­nals.

Mon­fils is now cer­tain to be elim­i­nated af­ter los­ing his first two matches.

“It was a very close match but luck­ily he helped me in the last game. Maybe I was the lucky one today,” Thiem said.

“I am very happy there’s still a chance for me to reach the semi-fi­nals, but Mi­los Raonic is an amaz­ing op­po­nent.” –

Photo: AFP

Ser­bia’s Novak Djokovic re­turns to Canada’s Mi­los Raonic dur­ing their round-robin stage men’s sin­gles match on day three of the ATP World Tour Fi­nals ten­nis tour­na­ment in Lon­don on Novem­ber 15.

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