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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, November 16, 2022


Riding a dominant serve, Novak Djokovic dismantled Andrey Rublev 6-4, 6-1 joining Casper Ruud as the second man to reach the Turin semifinals.

Photo credit: Getty

Complex calculation wasn't part of the pre-match curriculum Novak Djokovic.

A dominant Djokovic played major number cruncher anyway.

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Riding an imposing serve, Djokovic throttled Andrey Rublev, 6-4, 6-1 in a Turin takedown to qualify for the ATP Finals semifinals for the 11th time in 15 appearances at the prestigious year-end event.

Continuing his quest for a sixth season-ending crown, Djokovic moves atop the Red Group with a 2-0 record in round-robin play joining US Open finalist Casper Ruud as the second man to reach the semifinals. Djokovic's 11 semifinal appearances at the season-ending event is third in ATP history behind Roger Federer (16) and Ivan Lendl (12).

"I played very, very well, one of the best matches of the year without a doubt against always tough opponent," Djokovic said. "Great competitor, someone that possesses a lot of strengths in his game, serve and forehand are big weapons...

"He kind of went down in his energy in the second. And I just wanted to use the momentum that shifted on my side in the first few games. A flawless second set. I mean, it was an amazing performance today."

A sharp Djokovic dissected Rublev and it all emanated from explosively precise serving.

A near-flawless Djokovic served 81 percent, pumped 12 aces against no double faults, won 33 of 35 first-serve points and did not face a break point in a 67-minute rout.

The former world No. 1 speaks Italian and imposed the last word on the Russian today. Djokovic delivered game-ending aces in six of his nine service games and roared through eight of the last nine games avenging his 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-0 loss to Rublev in the final of his hometown Belgrade tournament last spring. Rublev conceded he came up empty in the second set today.

"I think today the match was only one set because the second I completely burned out. There was no even tennis," Rublev said. "Everything was clear. The first set, I mean, like you said, the most tough to face against Novak, especially on this surface that we are playing here, is his serve.

"The way he serve is really high percentage, all the directions, everything really close to the lines. I didn't even had almost chance on the first set to do something. Maybe there was one 30-All, 15-All, but nothing special, yeah. So that's it."

The seventh-seeded Serbian won the toss, elected to serve and pounded through a two-ace game holding to open.

Tennis Express

Rublev rolled through a two-ace game of his own to level after four games.

Rallies were brief as both men came out serving big.

The first stress test came in the eighth game. Rublev squandered a 40-love lead as Djokovic pushed to deuce. A snapping return gave Djokovic a good look at a forehand pass, but he dragged it wide. Rublev ripped an ace, evening after eight games.

Djokovic applied pressure again in the 10th game taking a 15-30 lead before Rublev stuck his seventh ace off the center stripe.

Whipping a return right back at the Russian, Djokovic drew the error for a break and set point. A frustrated Rublev slammed his Head racquet to the court then turned to face the fire.

A focused Djokovic drilled a clean two-handed return right down the line sealing a one-set lead with a bang while Rublev banged a ball off the blue court in an expression of his ire.

While Djokovic's damaging return game understandably draws attention from his opponents, superb serving powered him through the first set today.

The five-time champion served 74 percent, cracked eight aces against no double faults, won 17 of 17 first-serve points and concluded four of five service games with aces.

Rublev, who beat former champion Daniil Medvedev in his round-robin opener, played well throughout the set until that last game lapse. The Russian gave Djokovic too many second serve looks: Rublev served 52 percent and Djokovic won seven of 15 points played on his opponent's second serve in the set.

Two games into the second set, Djokovic pasted the sideline with a diagonal forehand for his second break point. Rublev erased it. Pouncing on a second serve, Djokovic broke for 2-0 when Rublev missed a forehand and compounded his error splattering his racquet to the court.

The former No. 1 fired his 11th ace ending a fifth service game with an ace to confirm the break for 2-0.

That strike prompted cheers from Djokovic's wife, Jelena, and the couple's children, Stefan and Tara, who were sitting in the court-side boxing and had to be loving what they were seeing.

When Djokovic slashed an ace for 4-1, it was his sixth ace-ending game of the match. Djokovic drilled one final forehand closing a 67-minute beatdown improving to 39-7 on the season.

After embracing the challenge, Djoknovic celebrate with a group hug with his kids.


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