Novak Djokovic reached the Paris Masters final for the sixth time when he downed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(5) 6-4 but Rafael Nadal pulled out injured on Saturday.
Serbia’s world No.1, who will be supplanted by Nadal at top of the ATP rankings on Monday, won a high-octane first-set tiebreak before wearing Dimitrov down in the second set.
Djokovic will face Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in Sunday’s showpiece at Bercy after 19-time Grand Slam champion Nadal, who would have secured the year-end No.1 spot with the title here, withdrew minutes before his semifinal match.
“He has played some impressive tennis, yesterday especially against Monfils,” said Djokovic of the Canadian’s quarterfinal win.
“I’m looking forward to the final. Hopefully I will be able to get the best out of myself tomorrow.”
Top seed Djokovic, who has lifted the trophy here four times and will feature in his 50th Masters final, played better in the key moments and served well throughout.
There were no break points in the first set.
In the tiebreak, Dimitrov moved 5-3 up after an untimely Djokovic double fault, only for the Serb to regain his composure, levelling for 5-5 with an exquisite defensive lob and winning the set at the end of a lung-busting 35-shot rally.
Dimitrov let his guard down in the fifth game of the second set, allowing Djokovic to snatch the only break of the match.
“He was probably the better player in the tie-break,” Djokovic said. “I managed to get returns into play and just make him play an extra shot. We both really understood the importance of clinching the first set.”
The 16-time Grand Slam winner held serve throughout to strengthen his hopes of ending the season as world No.1.
Nadal, somewhat eerily, had earlier in the tournament referenced his history of physical issues at the Paris Masters.
“It is always historically I have issues at the end of the season,” Nadal said. “I am always a little bit scared because this tournament I had plenty of things during all my career.”
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