If Novak Djokovic wants to equal Rafael Nadal’s record haul of 35 career Masters titles, he’ll have to first get well in16 hours and then beat a very in-form Milos Raonic in the Cincinnati final Saturday in New York.
Both finalists took different paths today. Early, it was Raonic shaking off a set point in the opener, then broke in the second to oust Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(5), 6-3 and reach his fourth career Master final, first at the Cincinnati stop.
The Canadian powered past Tsitsipas without dropping serve while dropping 12 aces and making a presence from the baseline.
“Was tough. It was a long point, I didn’t get the free point on the serve,” Raonic said of the set point. “I had to play it out, but I played it right and I stuck to my intentions the whole way through and it paid off for me. I stuck to my game and thankfully things came together.”
Raonic, though, has never won a Masters final (0-3) and hasn’t won a title in well over four years since 2016 Brisbane.
“It would be incredible. Just generally as part of my career, it’s not just the past six months coming back, playing. Just with everything else, I want to go to heights I haven’t achieved yet and this is a part of it,” said Raonic of winning a Masters. “This is what I’ve worked hard for with very clear, specific goals and I hope that I can get that step closer and maybe make a difference tomorrow.”
Djokovic struggled early going down a quick break to hard court nemesis Roberto Bautista Agut — the Spaniard had won the last three off Djokovic on hard courts. Djokovic began to find some form in the second, but that after a medical timeout for more treatment on his neck and an apparent stomach issue.
With rain forecasted, the roof on Armstrong was closed just as Bautista Agut served at 4-5 in the second. Djokovic naturally broke sending the match to a decider.
The topsy-turvy third saw six breaks of serve! Djokovic tried to serve it out at 5-3 but was broken love. Struggling with some illness, Djokovic broke at 30 to get it to a breaker — and he’s been so good in them — and took the match 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(0).
Djokovic improves to 22-0 in the year. He’s now won his last 25 matches since the ATP Finals. He’s also 10-0 against Raonic!
“Very strange match, I must say. I don’t know how I won it, to be honest. He was the better player,” Djokovic said on court after the 3-hour win. “I just didn’t feel good on the court at all, in any aspect of my game and of the body. But somehow, I managed to pull this one through.”
Once at the locker room., Djokovic was reportedly so sick he couldn’t do his press. And with him scheduled to play Monday night, and with the neck problems returning and another unknown sickness, will he show up Saturday?
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