Paris Masters SFs: Djokovic Holds Off Red-Hot Rublev; Dimitrov Downs Tsitsipas

Paris Masters SFs: Djokovic Holds Off Red-Hot Rublev; Dimitrov Downs Tsitsipas
By: Tennis X Posted On: November 04, 2023 View: 79

Two thrillers were contested today at the Paris Masters semifinals on Saturday.

Up first, Grigor Dimitrov reached his second career Masters final since his 2017 Cincinnati title by edging Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-7(1-7), 7-6(7-3).

“It’s been an amazing week,” Dimitrov said. “In a way, I was very happy coming into this week, because I just wanted to see where I’m at mentally and physically. That was I think the biggest thing for me. Next thing you know, a week later I’m on the final. So this is, yeah, as good as it gets right now.”

After Tsitsipas missed a couple of break chances early in the decider, both players settled down holding at ease for the most part. But in the break, Dimitrov raised his level with some signature shotmaking including a backhand passing shot for the victory, his second in eight meetings with the Greek.

“When the tiebreak began, I said to myself, Okay, he’s been playing very solid,” added Dimitrov. “I have been doing a lot of good things right. But in the same time, I have been very, like, solid throughout the whole match. So I need to lean on the things that I did well.

“Of course a couple of serves here and there, I read them very well. Great returns, attack the ball. Yeah, next thing you know, I was far ahead in the tiebreak. So that was already a big thing.”

The 32-year-old Dimitrov has now won nine of his last 10 in Masters player following a semifinal run in Shanghai.

Tsitsipas had won five straight over Dimitrov.

“Wrong choices in the tiebreak, for sure,” lamented Tsitsipas. “I was serving so well at that point, and I decided to slow down my serve in the very beginning of the tiebreaker and come to the net, which was something I’m not used to do. It kind of felt right to do, but it’s one of those things I kind of regret doing today.

“It was definitely a point I could have won, including the next one. So two very lousy points which gave him, like, a massive lead there, and could have done better. I was not very prepared to just go for big shots. I slowed down. I tried to play a little bit conservative which didn’t work.”

In the second semifinal, Novak Djokovic held off an in-form Andrey Rublev 5-7, 7-6(7-3), 7-5.

“Rublev was suffocating me like a snake suffocates a frog for most of the match,” said Djokovic. “He was playing an extremely high level that he possesses, but today he was off the charts, honestly. I don’t think I’ve ever faced Rublev this good.”

Rublev played near-perfect tennis the first two hours from all facets, especially his backhand. Djokovic, though, was too strong in the breaker and used his return and versatility to level the match.

After a 12-minute delay for a Djokovic kit change and treatment on his lower back, Djokovic continued to make inroads as the Russian’s play finally began to drop a little.

Djokovic would get breaker chances at 2-1 and would get to 30 several other times but couldn’t break through. Fortunately, he was untroubled on his serve and his patience finally paid off as Rublev smashed his racquet in disgust after serving a double fault down match point at 5-6.

“I was struggling with my fitness again a little bit at the beginning, but I kind of went through it,” the Serb said. “It was crucial obviously to win the second set. The tie-break, I served very well and that helped.

“In the third set, I thought I was always there in his service games, having chances. He came up with some big serves when he needed to, but in the end, a double fault. An unfortunate ending for him, but I think I deserved it considering the amount of effort and fight I put in, especially in the third.”

He is eyeing his 97th career title, 40th Masters title and seventh at the Paris Indoors. He’s also trying to claim his 399th Masters win. And also, he’s won his last 17 matches (30 of last 31) and overall is 11-1 against the Bulgarian. Dimitrov’s lone win came over 10 years ago on clay in Madrid 2013. And he hasn’t won a title since the 2017 ATP Finals.

“Going through quite a difficult stomach virus that really made me feel terrible the past three days, but somehow managing to find strength, find energy under the adrenaline rush of playing a match,” said Djokovic to the ATP. “Not giving up, fighting and believing that I can come back, which happened again and hopefully it can happen tomorrow.”

And if Djokovic can win this all-30 something final, he’ll all but wrap up his 8th year-end No. 1 ranking.

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