WATCH: Novak Djokovic at the Cincinnati Masters
Novak Djokovic battled past Marin Cilic on Saturday to not only get within one win of his first career Western & Southern Open title, but within one win of becoming the first player ever to complete a Golden Masters—having won all nine ATP Masters 1000 events at least once in their career.
Though Djokovic went into this with a 14-2 lead in the career head-to-head, there was a big asterisk: Cilic’s two wins had come in their last two meetings, at the 2016 Paris Masters and in the Queen’s Club final earlier this year.
Djokovic came out strong, breaking in the third game of the match and hanging onto that break until he had the first set in his pocket, 6-4. Cilic responded right away, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the second set and extending it 5-1. He closed the set out, 6-3.
Things went back and forth early in the third—first Djokovic jumped out to a 3-1 lead, then Cilic broke back to catch up to 3-all—but the last momentum swing went the No. 10-seeded Serb's way. Djokovic reeled off three games in a row to close out the No. 7 seed, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
"There were a lot of unforced errors from both of us - you could see that neither of us felt at our best," Djokovic said after the match. "But the third set was really good. Aside from the service game that I dropped after I broke him, the whole set went pretty well.
"Every match is getting more difficult, though. As I progress in the tournament, I'm aware that I have to keep raising my game."
Djokovic, who has now won 26 of his last 30 matches on the tour, is through to his sixth career final in Cincinnati. He finished runner-up in 2008 (to Andy Murray), 2009 (to Roger Federer), 2011 (again to Murray), 2012 (again to Federer) and 2015 (one more time to Federer).
Awaiting him in Sunday’s final will be either—wait for it—Federer, or David Goffin, who play the night semifinal. Djokovic has a 23-22 head-to-head record against Federer and is 5-1 lifetime against Goffin.
Cincinnati is also the only Masters event Djokovic has yet to win twice: he's won Indian Wells five times, Miami six times, Monte Carlo two times, Madrid two times, Rome four times, Canada four times, Shanghai three times and Paris four times.
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