ATP

Djokovic sees off Dimitrov challenge to reach Paris final

By Sports Desk November 02, 2019

Novak Djokovic will have a shot at a fifth Paris Masters title on Sunday after edging out Grigor Dimitrov in a keenly contested last-four clash.

Djokovic prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 in a 98-minute encounter that neatly encapsulated the players' careers.

Talent-wise there was nothing between them, Dimitrov happy to trade fierce baseline blows with the world number one only to fall short when it really mattered.

That was particularly evident in the first-set tie-break. Dimitrov led 5-4 with two serves to come only to fire a forehand drive-volley wide at the end of an epic rally.

An unforced forehand error gifted Djokovic set point which he clinched after Dimitrov went long following another gruelling point that lasted 35 strokes.

Djokovic's level never dipped and when he broke for a 3-2 lead in the second the crowd sensed the game was up.

Dimitrov continued to fight but he could not find a way back with Djokovic refusing to yield a single break point opportunity.

The Serbian will next take on either Rafael Nadal or Denis Shapovalov.

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  • Nadal cruises against Lajovic in Rome to join Djokovic in last eight Nadal cruises against Lajovic in Rome to join Djokovic in last eight

    Rafael Nadal remained on course for a 10th Internazionali d'Italia title as he comfortably beat Dusan Lajovic to join top seed Novak Djokovic in the last eight.

    Competing in his first tournament since February, Nadal has looked in fine form in Rome and followed up Wednesday's impressive 6-1 6-1 dismantling of Pablo Carreno Busta with another encouraging display, beating Lajovic 6-1 6-3.

    Lajovic did show some fight during the early exchanges, responding well to a break of serve by breaking back – and to love.

    But a marathon game, which included six instances of deuce, followed and Nadal prevailed to go 3-1 up, before going on to lose just four more points when closing out the opening set.

    Lajovic looked set to lose with a whimper when successive breaks gave Nadal a 4-0 lead in the second, and although the former responded by winning three games on the bounce, he had given himself too much to do and the Spaniard cruised to victory.

    Nadal was a class above for much of the contest, cleverly pulling the Serbian this way and that, and the world number two does not think he could be doing much better.

    "I played I think a very positive level of tennis. Of course it needs to keep improving," Nadal said. "I need to keep working on a couple of things that are not coming automatically, but I can't ask for more.

    "[It was] another great evening for me against another good opponent. Can't complain at all. Much better [than] what I expected.

    "The first set was 6-1, but a super-tough beginning of the match. A lot of good points. I'm very happy, it's an important victory for me after such a long time. To start the tournament with these two victories is great news."

    Earlier in the day, world number one Djokovic felt he was "pushed to the limit" by fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic as he won 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 to reach the last eight in the tournament for a 14th successive year.

    It was the first time in more than a decade that the two friends had met on the court and Djokovic was made to work particularly hard, saving five of six break points over the course of the contest and fighting back from 4-1 down in the tie-break before ultimately outlasting his compatriot.

    Djokovic's next opponent will be Dominik Koepfer, who dealt with Lorenzo Musetti in relatively comfortable fashion, winning 6-4 6-0.

    Fourth seed Matteo Berrettini was pushed all the way by fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia to secure his spot in the next round, coming through a tense 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-1) to set up a meeting with Casper Ruud, who beat Marin Cilic 6-2 7-6 (8-6).

    Eighth seed Diego Schwartzman was given a run for his money by Poland's Hubert Hurkacz, but the Argentinian came from behind to prevail 3-6 6-2 6-4.

    He will be up next for Nadal, while the other quarter-final will be contested between Grigor Dimitrov and Denis Shapovalov, both of whom came through three-setters on Friday.

  • Djokovic 'pushed to the limit' by Krajinovic in Rome Djokovic 'pushed to the limit' by Krajinovic in Rome

    Novak Djokovic said he was "pushed to the limit" by fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic before booking a quarter-final place at the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome.

    The world number one advanced to the last eight for a 14th straight year at the tournament with a 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 victory over Krajinovic.

    Djokovic had not faced Krajinovic in more than a decade and said it was difficult facing off against one of his closest friends.

    "It was one of the longest sets of my career," he said of the first set which lasted an hour and 27 minutes. "It is never easy to play against one of your best friends of so many years.

    "We have only played 10 years ago in Serbia and he has changed as a person and as a player. It is rare that we have not played against each other in this decade. We trained several times together and we have played the Davis Cup together; it was good to play against him.

    "Janko Tipsarevic [Krajinovic's coach], a Serbian tennis legend, is doing a great job with him. He's in the top 30; I know he's in shape.

    "I did not start the game as I wanted. I made many unforced errors, but we must congratulate him for pushing me to the limit."

    Djokovic saved five of six break points to seal the win after two hours and seven minutes, setting up a quarter-final clash with Dominik Koepfer.

    He attacked Krajinovic's forehand with gusto and delivered a string of drop shots throughout the first set, but that game plan did not come off when holding two set points at 5-4 on his opponent's serve.

    Krajinovic then started the tie-break strongly, storming into a 4-1 lead, before Djokovic powered back and took advantage of an error from his opponent to seal the set at the fifth time of asking.

    Djokovic wasted little time moving through the gears at the start of the second set, driving forehands down the line to break serve at 1-1. He maintained his advantage to reach 5-3 before breaking serve again to seal the win.

  • Halep overcomes Yastremska in Rome as Azarenka and Muguruza also reach last eight Halep overcomes Yastremska in Rome as Azarenka and Muguruza also reach last eight

    Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova cruised into the last eight at the Internazionali d'Italia on Friday, while Garbine Muguruza impressed again.

    Tournament favourite Halep eventually looked comfortable in her 7-5 6-4 against Dayana Yastremska, but the Romanian had to fight back from a break down in the opening set as she was put on the back foot.

    Halep slid 3-0 down in the opener, but she produced an admirable response when winning 12 of the following 13 points as she levelled up.

    Another break from 5-5 allowed Halep to take charge, and from there she rarely looked in trouble, remaining in the ascendancy early in the second as she went 3-0 up, ultimately seeing out the win professionally despite Yastremska giving herself a chance with a break of her own.

    "It was not easy against her because you don't really have the rhythm. She hits it very strong and it's tough to return her balls," Halep said, highlighting the need to get her head straight after the early wobble.

    "After I lost the first three games, I just had to focus a little bit better and stop giving her the balls that she likes.

    "I tried to change it up a little bit, make her move, [hit shots] a little bit high. I think during the match I found some solutions that were good to win.

    "Big picture, I think it was a great match and gives me confidence that even in these conditions with a big hitter that I could win in two sets."

    Awaiting Halep is a meeting with Yulia Putintseva, who fought back from a set down against fellow Russia-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina to edge an absorbing contest 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

    Second seed and defending champion Pliskova came through fairly comfortably against Anna Blinkova 6-4 6-3, with the Czech next going up against Elise Mertens, who saw off Danka Kovinic in similarly routine fashion with a 6-4 6-4 victory.

    Another tantalising quarter-final will be contested between Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza. Spaniard Muguruza caught the eye as she beat seventh seed Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1, not dropping serve once against her British opponent.

    Azarenka, who incredibly crushed Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin without dropping a game on Thursday, should be fresh for the quarter-final as her last-16 opponent Daria Kasatkina retired due to an ankle injury at 6-6 in the first set of their contest.

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