Novak Djokovic kept his China Open record clean by easing past rival Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4 to reach the Sunday final.
“It was a two-set victory today, but still it felt like I had to work hard to win the points,” said Djokovic. “There was a lot of rally exchanges. He had a lot of chances to come back. He was 4-3 up. Just in important moments I managed to play the better tennis. The comfortable hold at 4-3 probably allowed me to have that relief, because obviously I didn’t want him to break me and get into a third set where it can go either way.”
The win runs Djokovic’s record to 23-0 at the event. He’ll seek a fifth title tomorrow against Tomas Berdych who dominated Rafael Nadal conqueror Martin Klizan.
“I’m glad that I’m back in the form that I would like to be in, especially in these courts where I still haven’t lost ever since I played this tournament,” said Djokovic. “Hopefully I can finish the year in style, similar as I finished last year.”
Djokovic leads Berdych 15-2 in their series, but the Czech hopes to turn things around on Sunday.
“It’s [going to be a] really special day for me,” said Berdych. “Every Sunday that we have to go on court and play, it means a lot because it’s a final. Playing against the No. 1 player in the world is always a bit special.
“Novak is playing in incredible form again. He has a great record playing here at the China Open. There is a new challenge, a new day, a new opportunity for me. I’m going to try to go there, try to take my chance and, again, try to play my tennis. Let’s see what I can do with that.”
With Berdych, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic still in title hunts this weekend, Murray lost ground to those ranked ahead of him for the London Race.
Nishikori and Raonic will play tomorrow for the Tokyo title. Nishikori needed a final set breaker to take out Benjamin Becker while Raonic cruised past Gilles Simon.
“It’s going to be a tough match,” said Nishikori who has won three of four against the Canadian including a late-night 5-setter at the US Open. “He is playing really well this week. We always battle. It is amazing to play against him in a final here.”
Raonic is playing in his third straight Tokyo final having lost to Juan Martin del Potro last year and Nishikori in 2012.
“Against Kei, it is something to look forward to,” Raonic said. “A lot of people here want it. I have to execute well and serve well, focusing on myself primary other than them. The same goes for Becker. It’s something to look forward to and I want to reverse the result in the final here over the past two years.”
The women will settle there Beijing title between French Open champion Maria Sharapova against Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova with the No. 2 ranking at stake.
Sharapova beat Ana Ivanovic, Kvitova beat Stosur.
“She’s had a great couple of weeks,” Sharapova said of Kvitova. “She plays her best when she’s the aggressive player.”
“It’s been a long time since we played each other,” Kvitova said. “I know she’s a great champion. When it’s really tight, it’s just small things that make a difference in the end of the match, and I think in those points she’s really great. That’s it.”
Sharapova leads Kvitova 5-2.
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