Novak Djokovic will bid for a record fifth trophy at the Paris Masters on Sunday against Denis Shapovalov after Rafael Nadal pulled out minutes before the start of his semi-final with an abdominal injury.
The Spanish world No.1 had been due to face Canada’s Shapovalov, with the winner scheduled to take on Djokovic in Sunday’s final.
But a unprecedented mishap during morning training proved to be the downfall for the Spanish No. 1 when he felt a serious twinge in an abdominal muscle..
Djokovic overcame Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(5), 6-4 in their earlier semi.
Nadal said he underwent two scans at the stadium, with doctors eventually advising him not to play.
“Today, in the morning, I had been practising well. In one of the last serves of the warm-up, I felt something in the abdominal.
“I went to the doctor here to do the echography, he said that we need to wait a little bit more.
“So I waited for one hour and a half more to do a second test, and we saw something on the image, probably a small strain.
“I tried to come back on court to practise again and to see how the things are going with my serve, but I was still feeling the pain there.
“So playing is difficult today for different reasons.”
Djokovic claimed his place in a 50th Masters 1000 final; he has won 33 of the elite events.
The Serb defeated Dimitrov for the ninth time in 10 meetings; he has won all six of his semi-finals at the event.
Djokovic is keen to lift a record fifth title after last winning here in 2015.
“It’s a motivation every day. I feel good in such conditions, especially in France, which hosts also the French Open, which is one of the four greatest slams.
“I’m motivated. I want to do well tomorrow. I hope to find my best tennis.”
Djokovic will be competing in his sixth final of the season as he tries to win his fifth 2019 title.
He and Nadal are still duelling for year-send No. 1 honours, with the fight now relegated to the ATP Finals in London starting a week from Sunday.
Djokovic, whose form has lifted after starting the week feeling poorly, won the tight first set on a killer 35-shot point before breaking in the final game to close it out after nearly one and three-quarter hours.
Rafael Nadal now has to wait and see how a surprise abdominal muscle injury heals before deciding if he can take his place in the ATP Finals in London which begin in eight days.
The 33-year-old Spaniard will take back the No. 1 ranking on Monday, but is still locked in a duel with Novak Djokovic which can only be settled at the eight-man year-end showpiece.
Nadal had to withdraw from his Paris Masters semi-final with Denis Shapovalov, sending the 20-year-old Canadian into Sunday title match.
“I will do all what I can do and all what’s mathematically possible to recover for it,” Nadal said of the upcoming London year-ender..
“But today I can’t answer this question. When I came here, I did change a little bit the movement on the serve.
“When you change things, this kind of stuff can happen because is a risk and you involve different muscles.
“But I’ve been serving like this for one year, and I didn’t expect an issue.
“We can call it unlucky, we can call it different things, but it happened today. And when the things happen, the only thing that you can do is accept it. Even if it’s a tough situation for me,
“I need to stay positive.”
Nadal said that until now, his week could not have gone better.
“I enjoyed playing good tennis, I played three great matches. It’s tough to finish like this,
“I need to accept and recover well mentally and physically.
“I hope to be ready for London. That’s the biggest goal now. But as I say before, I can’t guarantee anything because just happened today.”