Djokovic, Federer set up hightlight semifinal clash at Paris Masters

PARIS, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) — A high-reel semifinal encounter awaits Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer after they conquered respective opponents at the ATP Paris Masters here on Friday.

Djokovic, set to become world No. 1 at the upcoming ATP rankings, came back from one set down to see off fifth-seeded Marin Cilic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, extending his winning streak to 21 matches.

Despite leading 15-2 in previous head-to-heads, Djokovic lost two of their last three encounters, including one at the same stage of the Paris Masters two years ago resulting in his slump from the world’s top position.

Both players maintained their serves eight games into the match. Cilic took the initiative in the ninth game through his first break after Djokovic’s backhand went long. Cilic bagged the first set win in his pocket later on, seeing Djokovic’s personal-best 30 consecutive sets victory snapped.

Djokovic put up his strong comeback early in the second set by breaking his Croatian rival’s serve in the fourth game. After establishing a 4-1 lead, Djokovic went on to force a decider.

Djokovic’s precise cross-court smash earned him a break in the eighth game to move in front 5-3 in the decider. The Serbian didn’t waste his first match point following Cilic’s poor backhand.

“It was a very close match. It went all the way to the last shot basically,” admitted Djokovic. “I was kind of going up and down. I thought I could have maybe served better, especially second serve.”

“But at the end of the day it’s a win, and I’m really pleased to overcome this kind of challenge,” he added.

In his first appearance at the Paris Masters since 2015, Federer improved his momentum as matches went underway as he shrugged off Japan’s Kei Nishikori in straight sets, and the latter failed to qualify for the ATP Finals later this month.

Federer registered a crucial break in the ninth game at 4-4 before triumphing the opening set 6-4.

With a 5-4 advantage in the following set, the Swiss veteran served out his match with four points in a row.

Unseeded Karen Khachanov powered past No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev hampered by shoulder pains 6-1, 6-2, and is set to make his second career ATP Masters 1000 semifinal appearance following that in Toronto in August.

“I had pain the whole week. After yesterday’s match, I had a lot of pain in the evening and during the night as well. Then today during the warmup, especially on my second serve where I was doing the kick motion, I had a lot of pain, and just kind of stretching, and it was tough,” said Zverev.

The Russian established his semifinal duel against Austria’s Dominic Thiem, as the No. 6 seed rallied past the defending champion Jack Sock 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Nishikori’s loss means that Cilic and Thiem have clinched the remaining two Finals spots. Other contenders at the year-end tournament will be Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Juan Martin del Potro, Zverev and Kevin Anderson.

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