Novak Djokovic has entered his fifth final at the Rolex Paris Masters after completing edge of the seat thrilling 7-6(6),5-7,7-6(3) win over his arch rival Roger Federer in three hours and three minutes on Saturday. He goes on to face the Russian Karen Khachanov on Sunday in the final in Bercy as the GenNext star completed a 6-4,6-1 rout of the Austrian Dominic Thiem to enter his maiden Master’s final in the first match on Saturday.
In what was the 47th career meeting between the two, Djokovic failed to convert four break point chances in a lengthy eighth game of the first set and had to save a set point in his own serve at 5-6 down in the ensuing tie-break. Federer failed to make inroads into two weak second serves by the Serb and lost the first set on the next point with yet another unforced error.
Federer needed to save two more break point chances in the opening game of the second set and then in an astonishing turnaround took nine of the last eleven points of the second set when he broke the Serb for what turned out to be the only service break of the entire match with a forehand winner down the line which forced a decider.
For the first time in his career Djokovic failed to convert on more than 10 break point chances as he went 0-12 in the match. Not surprisingly the third set went into a tie-break which seemed to be settled for good when Federer hit a double fault to go down 1-4. He would save two match points but Djokovic took the next point in his serve to once again triumph for the third time in a decisive tie-break.
The earlier instances being in the Toronto final in 2007 which was the first of his 32 Master’s titles and the second one being at Indian Wells in 2014. The Serb who returns to number One in the rankings on Monday after Rafael Nadal withdrew with an abdominal injury is now on a 22 match winning streak and will be aiming to equal Rafael Nadal’s tally of 33 Master’s titles on Sunday.
Federer was looking for his second title in Paris, having earlier won in 2011, now drops to 22-25 in his career head to head against Djokovic who has now won their last four meetings. Djokovic who has won the title in 2009 and for three consecutive years from 2013 to 2015, now equals the Argentine Guillermo Vilas’s tally of 104 career finals.
Federer who won his 99th career title in Basel last week when he claimed his ninth title at the Swiss Indoor ATP 500, will now head to London at the World Tour Finals in his bid to become only the second male player in tennis history to claim atleast 100 titles. The American Jimmy Connors has won 109 career titles.
Earlier in the day, the 20 year old Russian Karen Khachanov entered his first Master’s final after completing a 6-4,6-1 demolition of the eighth seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem in only 71 minutes. It was his third Top Ten win in as many matches, having ended the American John Isner’s London hopes in the Round of 16, and also beaten the fifth ranked German prodigy Alexander Zverev in the quarter final.
He would be looking for his third title of the year but will face his ultimate test against the World number One Djokovic who beat him in straight sets on the grass courts of Wimbledon this year. The Russian can rise to number Eleven in the ranking ahead of the Croat Borna Coric with a win on Sunday. With Del Potro withdrawing from the season ending finale and Rafael Nadal possibly doing the same, Khachanov could become the first standby for the World Tour Finals if he wins on Sunday.
Prediction :- Although Djokovic is on a 22 match winning streak, Cilic and Federer have proved he is not invincible. Khachanov is well rested and should he rid himself of any early nerves in what is the biggest match of his career is likely to pose problems for the Serb.
Djokovic is looking to tie Nadal’s tally of 33 Master’s titles and there is too much at stake for Djokovic who is due for a minor dip in form. First set would be crucial for both and I am inclined to believe the winner of the first set will probably prevail in three sets. Safe bet is Djokovic.