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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, November 5, 2021


Novak Djokovic defeated Taylor Fritz, 6-4, 6-3, reaching his seventh Paris semifinal and closing in on an ATP record seventh year-end No. 1 finish.

Photo credit: Getty

Novak Djokovic has visions of attaining an unprecedented peak.

Today, Djokovic took a major step forward continuing a celebrated climb.

More: Hurkacz Qualifies For Turin

The top-seeded Djokovic dismantled Taylor Fritz’s explosive serve scoring a 6-4, 6-3 sweep to race into the Rolex Paris Masters semifinals.

It is Djokovic’s seventh Paris semifinal and 71st career ATP Masters 1000 final four—second only to rival Rafa Nadal’s 75 Masters semifinals.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion will clinch his ATP record seventh year-end world No. 1 ranking today if second-ranked Russian Daniil Medvedev loses to French left-hander Hugo Gaston later tonight.

"That's actually the biggest reason why I came here, trying to clinch the year-end No. 1," Djokovic said afterward. "Hopefully I can do it during this week. If not, then I'll have another chance in Turin."

While it wasn’t a pristine performance—Djokovic twice squandered one-break leads in the first set—the five-time champion played some of his best tennis on pivotal points and broke the big-serving American in five of his nine service games. Djokovic improved to 22-0 vs. American opponents since the start of 2017, including a 5-0 mark vs. Fritz in that span.

Despite a seven-week sabbatical he took to rest and recover following his US Open finals loss to Medvedev that shattered his quest for the calendar Grand Slam, Djokovic is right back where he wants to be in Paris.

“I’m very pleased with the way I started both matches,” Djokovic told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “I the first match against Fucsovics, 6-2 first set, today as well. I did have ups and downs. I’m not really pleased with the way I was closing out the sets. When I made the first break right away I lost my serve at 2-0 then 5-3 again I was serving for it with new balls and when I lost at love again.

“Those kind of things should not happen—I know that—but I was backing myself up with good returning I was reading Taylor’s big weapon, his serve, very well and giving myself a good chance to be in the rally. Overall I closed out last couple of service games well and that’s a positive.”

A scary thing for Djokovic’s semifinal opponent Hubert Hurkacz—the Serbian endured some scratchy serving twice dropping serve at love in the first set—but grew increasingly stronger on serve as the match progressed. Djokovic stamped three straight love holds to close in 73 minutes and raise his 2021 record to 46-6.

The seventh-seeded Hurkacz secured his first-ever trip to the ATP Finals in Turin defeating first-time Masters quarterfinalist James Duckworth 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-5 to sew up the eighth and final spot for the season-ending tournament.

“Hubie is an established Top 10 player,” Djokovic said. “He just qualified for the last eight in Turin—it was a huge burden for him.

“I’m happy for him. He’s a fantastic guy works hard. Probably the last 15 months have been best of his life. Winning Miami and reaching semis of Wimbledon he’s up there. He’s one of the main contenders. Now we are in the final four so anything can happen so hopefully I will be at my best.”

Facing Fritz for the third time this season, Djokovic pumped a pair of aces holding at love sparking a run of seven straight points that saw him break the American for 2-0.

St. Petersburg finalist Fritz unleashed a full-stretch forehand return winner down the line and drew an error breaking back at love in the third game.

A tremendous sliding backhand get from the acrobatic Serbian made Djokovic look as if skating on ice as he earned triple break point. The top seed smacked an assertive forehand crosscourt breaking for 5-3.

At that point, Djokovic seemed in control. Fritz had other ideas. Exploiting two Djokovic double faults, Fritz scored his second love break of the set to get back on serve.

The 24-year-old American was struggling to gain traction on his second serve as Djokovic was ripping returns on the rise. The Wimbledon champion forced successive errors converting his third break to take the 40-minute opening set.

The pair traded breaks to start the second set. Djokovic dodged another break point navigating a challenging hold for 2-1.

The Djokovic return game limited Fritz’ free points and compelled him to play closer to the lines.

Tennis Express

When Fritz floated a forehand long he was down double break point in the sixth game. Djokovic used his quicker court coverage to stretch the American corner to corner before throttling a diagonal forehand behind Fritz scoring his fifth break of the night for 4-2.

Fritz, who served with command knocking off four consecutive Top 20 opponents in recent weeks, won just seven of 22 points played on his second serve against the game’s premier returner.

A free-flowing Djokovic drilled an ace down the T capping a 50-second love for 5-2.

On match point, Djokovic serve-and-volleyed poking a spinning stretch backhand volley winner to wrap up the win in style.


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