Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have set up a 47th career meeting between the two as both advanced on Friday at the Rolex Paris Masters, while Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic booked their tickets for London as they sealed the last two remaining slots at the World Tour Finals in London. Thiem plays the Russian GenNext star Karen Khachanov in the first semi-final on Saturday.
In the first match of the evening session, Djokovic’s streak of 30 consecutive sets won dating back to the second round win over the American Tennys Sandgren at the U.S. Open in New York came to its inevitable end as the struggling Croatian Marin Cilic played his best tennis in the last five months. In their last meeting at the Queen’s Club final on grass in June, Cilic had saved a match point in the second set before winning in three sets to capture his second title at the Queen’s Club.
After that Cilic has fallen from a career high no. 3 in the rankings to his current ranking of no. 7, but he seems to have recovered his mojo just in time for the World Tour Finals in London and more importantly for the Davis Cup final against France away from home the weekend after London. The Croat broke Djokovic in the ninth game of the first set before serving out the set at 6-4. The Serb though rallied from the brink and evened the tie breaking Cilic’s serve in the fourth and the eighth game to claim the second set 6-2.
Cilic was the first to break in the third game of the decider but Djokovic broke right back and then again in the eighth game before serving out for a 4-6,6-2,6-3 win in two hours and eleven minutes. Djokovic converted only four out of thirteen break point chances and also had five double faults in the match. Despite the loss Cilic assured himself of a spot at the World Tour Finals as Roger Federer took out Kei Nishikori 6-4,6-4 in the last match of the day which also ensured that the Austrian Dominic Thiem qualified for the third straight year for the season ending finale.
Roger Federer is now within only two wins from capturing his 100th career title as he kept alive his slim chances of year end number one ranking after a routine 6-4,6-4 win over Kei Nishikori who needed to win the title to qualify for London. So dominant was the Federer serve that he won 27 out of the 28 points on first serve and saved the only break point he faced in the 79 minute encounter.
That sets up a 47th career meeting between the two legends, Djokovic leads the rivalry 24-22 including three wins in a row. The last time the two met was at the Cincinnati Masters where the Serb won 6-4,6-4 to become the only player in the history of the game to win all nine ATP 1000 titles atleast once. He is now on a 21 match winning streak and has won 30 of his last 31 matches dating back to the start of Wimbledon.
In an eagerly anticipated match up between two of the best GenNext stars, Karen Khachanov of Russia has made it to his maiden last four appearance in a Master’s Series event after a 6-1,6-2 demolition of the German Alexander Zverev who received court side treatment in the first set and looked well below his best in the one sided encounter. Khachanov broke serve twice in each sets and now faces the Austrian Dominic Thiem on Saturday.
The eighth ranked Thiem overcame a slow start before ending the run of the defending champion Jack Sock of the U.S.A. 4-6,6-4,6-4. Thiem who won titles in Buenos Aires, Lyon and St. Petersburg apart from a maiden appearance in a grand slam final at the Roland Garros (lost to Nadal) and a second consecutive final at the Madrid Master’s, has compiled a 53-17 record in 2018, which is second only to Zverev’s record of 54-18.
Sock, who won his maiden Master’s title here last year and dramatically clinched the last spot for what was his maiden appearance in London, has only won eight matches in 2018, compiling a miserable 8-21 record in 2018. He is likely to drop out of the Top 100 and may not be seeded at the Australian Open in January next year.
The following is the Semi-final line up with my pick mentioned first:-
Novak Djokovic (2) (48-10) v. Roger Federer (3) (46-7), Djokovic leads 24-22
Dominic Thiem (6) (53-17) v. Karen Khachanov (-) (44-22); First meeting.