Djokovic wins epic to down Fedex in Paris semis.
Roger Federer’s run at the Rolex Paris Masters was derailed as he met major rival Novak Djokovic for the 47th time, with the Serb squeezing out a tight 7-6(6), 5-7, 7-6(3) victory into the finals.
The indoor epic went for more than three hours, with Federer failing to move into the final against rising Russian Karen Khachanov, who booked his place in a first Masters 1000 final with a 6-4, 6-1 knockout of Dominic Thiem.
The match was played six days after the 37-year-old Swiss won his 99th career title at his home event in Basel.
Federer’s entry was a last-minute decision but paid off decently for the 20-time Grand Slam champion who had not competed at the event for three years.
“I feel it was good from my side, but i have some regrets,” Federer said. “You always do when you lose like this.,
“Overall it was a good tournament, it was worth it to come to Paris. I played some good tennis, I can be happy.”
Djokovic now leads their series 25-22, winning the last four encounters. The Serb now owns 22 straight victories after last having lost an ATP match in August in Toronto.
“There can be a lot of regrets when you play over 100 points in a match,” Federer said after firing 17 aces but also forced to save a dozen break points.
“(Regrets) are all around you all the time – you try to have as few of them as possible. Losing is never fun.
“My rivalry with Novak is intense tennis; tough and fair – like it should be.”
The Swiss had said coming in that he faced a massive task on court. “Novak is on a roll, you can feel it. At the end it came down to a few things here and there.
“I think I played better here than in Basel – which I won. It took a player the calibre of Novak to beat me.”
After dropping the opening set after well over an hour and levelling by taking the second, Federer looked like taking command in the air-tight third.
But the tiebreaker proved his undoing as Djokovic rose to the occasion and found himself with five match points.
Federer said the first two but put a backhand in the net to end it.
Djokovic’s winning momentum goes on; but the Serb said he had to fight hard.
“We’ve always had epic matches, but this one ranks as one of the best that we’ve played.
“It was high quality, the most exciting one I’ve been involved with this year. But that was expected; against Roger I know i have to get the best out of myself in order to win.
“Turnaround for the final will be tough, but I’ve been in worse situations. I know myself and I’ll be ready.
“Three hours of tennis did take some energy out of me. I can recover well and I’ll make sure that I do.”
Meanwhile, unseeded Karen Khachanov toppled London finals bound Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-1 for a place in his first career Masters 1000 final.
The 22-year-old Russian with three career titles – two of them earned this season – will battle for his biggest prize to date when he bids for the trophy at the Rolex Paris Masters.
“It’s a good feeling – how else can I feel,” the winner said. “I’m really happy to achieve this, to make it to the finals.
“But the tournament is not over. I’m looking forward to playing the finals tomorrow. It will be a match against any of the legends.”
Thiem, seeded sixth, is already headed for the season-ending ATP event in London as one of the eight top finishers in 2018.
The Austrian who played the Roland Garros final in the French capital five months ago against Rafael Nadal, went down to an opponent playing his second Masters semi after Toronto in August.
Thiem had never been this far indoors in Paris, earning his place with an elimination of holder Jack Sock.
Khachanov came to the last event of the ATP regular season standing 2-16 versus Top 10 opponents.
The Russian this week, beating three members of the elite in as many days with Paris victories over No. 9 John Isner and No. 5 Alexander Zverev before controlling Thiem.
“I had some really tough and close matches against top guys and I was really believing that it has to turn around at one point,” Khachanov said.
“If you keep maintaining your level, that’s the reason I won those matches. I’ve been waiting for this moment to try to go and compete against top guys, and this time I won.”
Khachanov’s victory was his 45th of the season; he ben successful in all three of his previous ATP-level finals.