Tennis superstars set for semi-final clash at Masters.
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic dominated longtime personal punching bags to set up a semi-final at the Rolex Paris Masters.
Federer claimed a sixth straight win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4 while Djokovic extended his 2018 unbeaten record to 21 straight as he came from a break down in the third set to overhaul Marin Cilic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The win, which took more than two hours, was only slightly tainted by the fact that the 31-year-old Djokovic finally lost a set after winning his last 30; his previous loss of a set came in August in the US Open second round.
Cilic had won two of the last three matches played in the series, but remains an overwhelming underdog against Djokovic with a 2-16 record.
“It was very intense match and I think it was a good quality tennis as well from both of us,” Djokovic said.
“He was playing well, I was going up and down. I could have maybe served better – but at the end of the day it’s a win and I’m really pleased to overcome this kind of challenge.”
Defeat meant that Cilic must still wait to see if he qualifies into the last eight of the upcoming ATP Finals in London.
Had he won, the Croatian would have clinched his spot in the field at the O2.
Djokovic ended with five aces and an identical number of double faults, with Cilic dropping serve four times.
“I’m still struggling with kind of a flu. It’s not easy to perform every single day, the energy levels are not as high.
“I’m trying to manage the situation. I hope I can progress day by day.”
Nishikori’s loss theoretically excludes him from the London season wrap-up. But with the physical state of Rafael Nadal doubtful at best and Juan Martin del Potro already set to miss the week with a knee injury, the way should be clear for Asia’s biggest name.
Federer got the break he needed against Nishikori in the ninth game of the opening set, winning it quickly a game later. The third seed then broke to start the second to move into the Djokovic confrontation.
“It was really important not to get broken over two sets,” Federer said. I played consistent and solid and didn’t make too many mistakes.
“I was able to deliver in a nice way today.”
Djokovic, who will replace Nadal on No. 1 on Monday, leads the rivalry 24-22 after winning their last three matches, in Cincinnati this summer and the 2016 Australian Open.
“Of course I want to try and win,” Federer said.”Novak’s on a hot streak, it’s gonna be tough.
“I have nothing to lose, I’ve got to take the right decisions and see things in a relaxed way.”
“My goal this week was just to show up and see what happens, I’ve played two matches and I’m not tired.
“I can start to believe that there might be even more.”