Novak Djokovic moved into his 15th career ATP Finals title match on Saturday with a tight 7-6(5), 7-6(6) win over Taylor Fritz in the Turin semifinals.
Despite a 3-hour plus thriller yesterday, Djokovic was in form early against the American squeaking out yet another tiebreaker.
Fritz would get ahead in the second in a crucial game serving out the set, the 25-year-old faltered missing an open backhand down-the-line at 5-4, 30-all. A fan called out just as Fritz hit the ball. Djokovic got the break back to level and just made Fritz play too many balls down the end to win it in just under two hours.
“I had to fight to survive,” Djokovic said. “I didn’t feel very reactive today or very comfortable. I knew coming into today’s match from yesterday’s grueling battle against 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.
“I had to be very patient, I didn’t start the second set very well,” he added.
“I am very pleased to have overcome this one as I don’t think it was one of my best days with my tennis, but I managed to hang in there.”
Fritz in his first ATP Finals, fell just short.
“Typically I’m good at tie-breakers,” Fritz said. “I feel like my tiebreaker record throughout my career has definitely been really good. Today I played both tie-breakers pretty well.
“I’m right there. It’s small margins in tennis. It’s always like that. It’s very small margins. Just need to get that little bit better and I’m right there.”
Going for a Roger Federer-tying sixth ATP Finals title, he’ll meet 2-time 2022 Grand Slam finalist Casper Ruud.
In his second straight semifinal at this event, The Norwegian overwhelmed Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-4. Ruud missed serving it out for a first time at 5-2 but got it done on the second time of asking.
“It’s tough sometimes because things are obviously going great, but sometimes they can go almost too well,” Ruud said. “So you feel like you can do anything with the ball and you can get a little bit ahead of yourself.
“I don’t think I did when I was serving for it. Andrey hit some great returns, aggressive with the forehand. Of course, you tend to hesitate a little bit. Luckily for me, I go out there at 5-4 and serve with new balls, so that helps a lot. I knew that I had the backup break. I wasn’t stressing too much. Everything sort of was going my way today.”
Djokovic leads Ruud 3-0 and 6-0 in sets. So Ruud will have to beat someone he has never won a set from to win his biggest career title. They also met in the round robin stage here last year.
“He’s a player that doesn’t have many weaknesses at all,” said Ruud looking toward the final. “But he’s human.
“It’s not like he plays these finals every day of his career, in his life. I’m sure he will also feel a little bit of pressure. There’s a lot on the line. I may be ahead of him, but I feel like the underdog. He has won this tournament five times and I’ve seen them all on TV, how great he has played.”
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