Novak Djokovic battled back from a set down—and a break down in the third set, as well—to make it past Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals of the Rolex Paris Masters on Friday night, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Though Djokovic dominated their overall head-to-head going into the match, 15-2, Cilic had recently been a thorn in the Serb's side, winning two of their last three meetings and five of the last eight sets they’d played.
This encounter was yet another battle. Cilic drew first blood at 4-all in the first set, earning a break before holding serve to take a one-set lead. Djokovic cruised through the second set, but found himself in trouble again early in the third set, getting broken to fall behind, 2-1.
But the soon-to-be No. 1 got right back on track, breaking to even up the decider at 2-all, and he never really looked back. After two hours and 10 minutes, Djokovic earned his 16th win in 18 career meetings with Cilic.
“It was a big challenge today. I was a break down in the third set,” Djokovic said. “Really, this match could’ve gone either way. I won the match, but if he would have won, it would be absolutely deserved.
“I think only one or two points decided the winner today.”
Djokovic came into the match boasting two big streaks: not only had he won his last 20 matches in a row, he’d also won his last 30 sets in a row—a personal best. Cilic snapped one streak, but not the other.
“I’m just pleased to be in the semis,” Djokovic added. “I know I can play better. At times tonight I was playing really well, at times not as great, so there are things I have to improve for the next one.”
Djokovic is in the semifinals of the Rolex Paris Masters for the fifth time in his career, and every time he’s reached the final four at the Masters 1000 tournament, he’s gone on to capture the title (in 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2015).
Djokovic leads Federer in their head-to-head, 24-22, and there are a few more advantages for the Serb in that match-up: he’s won the pair’s last three meetings, as well as their only career meeting at this event in Paris. In the 2013 semifinals, he rallied from a set down to beat the Swiss, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
By falling to Federer, Nishikori’s hopes of qualifying for the ATP Finals are gone—the last two spots in the eight-man event will go to Cilic and Dominic Thiem. (The first six qualifiers were Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Federer, Juan Martin del Potro, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson.) That said, if del Potro withdraws from the event with injury, as expected, Nishikori will be in the season-ending elite eight.
But enough about London for now. The eyes of the tennis world will be fixated on Paris for a marquee semifinal, and a match-up many thought we'd see at the US Open. Federer stumbled short of facing Djokovic at Flushing Meadows when he lost to John Millman in the fourth round. Nishikori—and Cilic—were unable to prevent that from happening again in Bercy.
And so, it's Roger vs. Novak, Part 47. This time, we're ready.
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WTA Zhuhai (Mon - Sun 10.29 - 11.4)
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USTA Tyler (Tue - Sun 10.30 - 11.4)
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