Turin (Italy), Nov 19 (SocialNews.XYZ) Novak Djokovic passed a stern semifinal test from Taylor Fritz on Saturday at the ATP Finals, where the Serbian prevailed 7-6(5), 7-6(6) to reach the final and move within one victory of equalling Roger Federer's record of six titles at the prestigious season finale.
A spirited showing from Fritz saw the American recover a break deficit in the first set and surge to a 5-3 lead in the second. Despite struggling to consistently find his best level, Djokovic found a way to pull through in both tie-breaks as he wrapped a hard-fought one-hour, 54-minute victory at the Pala Alpitour.
"I had to fight to survive. I didn't feel very reactive today or very comfortable. I knew coming into today's match from yesterday's gruelling battle against [Daniil] Medvedev I knew it would take me some time to adjust and find the dynamic movement I need against Fritz, who is one of the best servers on the Tour," said Djokovic.
The seventh-seeded Djokovic delivered a solid rather than spectacular performance against Fritz, hitting just 21 winners to the eighth-seed's 31. He was delighted to claim victory in straight sets after his lung-busting three-hour, 11-minute round-robin triumph against Medvedev on Friday afternoon.
The way in which Djokovic attacked Fritz's second serve was key to his triumph. The Serbian won 61 percent (14/23) points against the American's second delivery and converted both breakpoint chances he had in the match.
Djokovic can match the Swiss great Federer's title tally on Sunday when he takes on Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev in the championship match in Turin. Should he lift the trophy, Djokovic will also claim the largest payday in tennis history, with 4,740,300 dollars on offer for claiming the ATP Finals trophy undefeated.
The 35-year-old is chasing his fifth tour-level title of the season in Turin. Champion at Rome, Wimbledon, Tel Aviv and Astana. Djokovic now holds a 45-17 career record at the ATP Finals, where he lifted the trophy in 2008 (in Shanghai) and in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 (in London).
Djokovic broke to love in the fifth game of the match against Fritz to build some early pressure, but the American responded well and immediately levelled for 3-3 as the Indian Wells, Eastbourne, and Tokyo champion began to settle into the match.
Although both players still struggled to find their top level, it was Djokovic who produced a moment of magic on set point with a classy forehand winner that clinched the tie-break to the delight of his vocal fans inside the Pala Alpitour.
Fritz came out firing in the second set, breaking the Serbian in the opening game and looking increasingly confident in his maiden ATP Finals semifinal. It was a simple missed backhand from Fritz at 5-4, 30/30 that proved pivotal, although the American appeared distracted by someone calling from the crowd as he struck the ball.
Djokovic capitalised on it to reclaim the break before securing victory in a dramatic tie-break that featured a series of high-quality points.