On Saturday at the Nitto ATP Finals, Novak Djokovic prevailed 7-6(5), 7-6(6) over Taylor Fritz in the semi-finals to move within one victory of Roger Federer’s record of six victories at the illustrious season finale.
Fritz put on a valiant performance, coming back from a break down in the first set to take the second set 5-3. However, despite finding it difficult to consistently perform at his best, Djokovic managed to prevail in both tie-breaks to complete a grueling one-hour, 54-minute victory at the Pala Alpitour.
Djokovic later admitted, “I had to struggle to survive. “Today, I didn’t feel very comfortable or receptive. After yesterday’s exhausting match against [Daniil] Medvedev, I knew going into today’s match that it would take me some time to adjust and find the dynamic movement I need to beat Fritz, who is one of the best servers on the Tour.
In contrast to Fritz, who was placed eighth, seventh-seeded Djokovic hit just 21 winners to the eighth seed’s 31 throughout their match. After a lung-busting three hours and eleven minutes in the round-robin match against Medvedev on Friday, he was thrilled to win in straight sets.
“I had to exercise a lot of patience because I didn’t start the second set well, “Djokovic said. “But at 5-4 in the set, just like when [Daniil] Medvedev was serving for the match yesterday, I was able to break his serve. In those circumstances, I found another gear, maintained my composure, and forced him to take another shot in the tie-break.
I don’t think it was one of my best tennis days, but I was able to persevere, so I’m very happy to have overcome this one.
The key to Djokovic’s victory was how he attacked Fritz’s second serve. Against the American’s second delivery, the Serbian won 61% (14/23) of the points and used both of his break points.
When Djokovic faces Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev in the championship match in Turin on Sunday, he will have the opportunity to equal the number of titles held by the legendary Swiss player Federer. With $4,740,300 on the line for winning the Nitto ATP Finals trophy unbeaten, Djokovic will also receive the biggest paycheck in tennis history should he hoist the trophy.
In Turin, the 35-year-old Djokovic is attempting to win his fifth tour-level championship of the year. The Nitto ATP Finals, where the Rome, Wimbledon, Tel Aviv, and Astana champion has won the championship in 2008 (in Shanghai), as well as in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, have a career record of 45-17 for him.
Fritz was happy about how close he had come to the 90-time tour-level champion Djokovic after making it to the semi-finals on his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals, despite the disappointment of Friday’s loss. The World No. 9 recognized that his time in Turin during the previous week had given him more confidence in his ability to consistently contend with his Top 10 adversaries in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
I usually do well in tie-breakers, Fritz thought. “I believe that throughout my career, my tie-breaker performance has been pretty strong. I did quite well in both of the tiebreakers today. I’m standing there. Tennis has narrow margins. Always in that manner There are very few margins. All [I] need to do is improve by a tiny bit, and I’ll be there.
In order to exert some early pressure on Fritz, Djokovic broke to love in the fifth game of the match, but the American replied brilliantly and quickly leveled the score at 3-3 as the champion of Indian Wells, Eastbourne, and Tokyo started to calm. A beautiful forehand winner on set point by Djokovic won the tie-break despite the fact that both players were still having trouble reaching their best.
In the second set, Fritz came out strong, breaking the Serbian in the first game and exuding confidence in his first-ever Nitto ATP Finals semi-final.
At 5-4, 30/30, Fritz’s straightforward missed backhand proved to be crucial, despite the fact that the American appeared to be preoccupied by a call from the audience as he sent the ball. To the pleasure of his raucous supporters inside the Pala Alpitour, Djokovic capitalized to retake the break before winning in a thrilling tie-break.
Djokovic said later, “I like the atmosphere. “When people come to see you play, they hope they had fun, especially near the finish of the match. They expect some sort of entertainment and fantastic tennis. When playing a player with a strong serve like Fritz, every point counts.