World number one Novak Djokovic produces a thrilling comeback win over fifth seed Andrey Rublev, advancing to the Rolex Paris Masters final to meet unseeded Grigor Dimitrov, who ousted Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday at the Accor Arena in Paris-Bercy.
Sunday’s showdown in Paris will feature top seed Novak Djokovic against the resurgent Grigor Dimitrov, bidding to win the crown at the last Masters 1000 event of the season.
The first semifinal of the day saw the in-form Bulgarian player delivering another high-level tennis performance to outlast seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-7(1), 7-6(3) after two hours and 32 minutes, achieving the second Masters 1000 final in his career.
Assessing his performance after the encounter, he outlined: “I am just happy I was able to get through that match in such a manner. After that second set, especially in the tiebreak, it was getting very tricky: 15/40 down in the third. I was thinking it can’t keep going like this. I have to change something.”
“To beat someone like him, I just had to step through. That is the only thing I could have done.”
“Throughout the match, I felt I was doing a lot of good things, and in the middle of the second [set], he picked up his game.”
The World No. 17 added: “In the end, I waited for the tiebreak. I played very well. The first five points in the tiebreak were excellent. I took those chances, and that was all I could do against such a high-quality player. If you let him dictate, you are done. But I kept on believing and kept staying focused and made sure every time I had the ball on the racquet, I did something with it.”
He finished with 38 winners, committing just two double faults, winning 78 percent of the first serve points.
In addition, he fended off all four breakpoints he faced through the matchup.
En route to achieving his 41 triumph on tour this season, the 32-year-old left behind Italian Lorenzo Musetti to shock 2020 champion Daniil Medvedev in his second-rounder.
Going the distance, he eased past Alexander Bublik – his only straight-set win all week – taking down Shanghai champion Hubert Hurkacz, setting a semifinal clash with Tsitsipas, who claimed his 300th tour-level victory on Friday by sailing past Karen Khachanov.
Dimitrov’s impressive form has been on full display all season, but it was during the Asian swing that all the pieces of the puzzle seemed to have come together in perfect harmony.
The combination of the former world number three trademark elegant tennis, vast repertoire, athleticism, and mental strength took his opponents by surprise, and with every triumph, his confidence grew, maintaining a level of consistency he had not found in recent years.
On Sunday, he will face the ultimate challenge, six-time Paris champion Djokovic, who leads the 8-time ATP titlist 11-1 in their series.
The opening contest of the night saw the Serbian surging from the brink to topple Monte-Carlo Masters winner Andrey Rublev 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5 after three hours, achieving his 58th Masters 1000 win to progress into his 9th final in the City of Lights.
In his post-match interview, Djokovic revealed: “Rublev was suffocating me like a snake suffocates a frog for most of the match. He was playing at an extremely high level that he possesses, but today, he was off the charts, honestly. I don’t think I’ve ever faced Rublev this good.”
“On the other hand, I was struggling with my fitness a little bit at the beginning but went through it. It was crucial, obviously, to win the second set tiebreak – I served very well – and in the third set, I thought I was always there in his service games, having chances.
“In the end, a double fault from him was unfortunate, but I think I deserved it considering the amount of effort and fight I put in in the third set.”
Early in the opener, they exchanged breaks of serve, and despite facing breakpoints on his serve, the top seed kept the score balanced until Rublev converted a crucial double break to take the first set 7-5.
In the process, the 36-year-old gave signs of feeling unwell, making an erratic display for most of the set but managing to hold on return.
As the second set wore on, the Moscow-born followed to deliver all his firepower with precision to damage his adversary, hitting his ferocious forehand while staying solid on serve.
However, the US Open champion held his nerve, making the difference in the second set tiebreak that he wrapped up 7-6(3) to level the contest.
Between the second and final set, Djokovic received treatment for his lower back before returning to the court.
The Belgrade native completed his comeback in a tight third set, getting the better of the World No. 5, who committed a costly double fault when there was no margin for error.
Rublev showcased exceptional tennis against the unrelenting man who bids to capture his 40th Masters 1000 title, his 97th crown overall on Sunday.