Going into Saturday’s semifinals, it looked like it could be a final between the Top 2 players in the world. No. 1 Djokovic came through, beating Grigor Dimitrov, 7-6 (5), 6-4, but No. 2 Nadal was forced to withdraw prior to his match against Shapovalov due to an abdominal injury suffered in practice.
“We can call it unlucky, we can call it different things, but it happened today,” Nadal told ATPTour.com. “When things happen, the only thing that you can do is accept it. And even if it’s a tough situation for me, I need to stay positive. Finishing out like this is always a very negative thing, but the rest of the things of the week have been very positive. Good practices before the tournament, super good tennis during the whole tournament. I played three great matches, and I have enjoyed being on the court.
Nadal after his withdrawal:
“I hope to be ready for London. That’s the biggest goal right now.”
Despite the withdrawal, Nadal will still replace Djokovic at No. 1 on the ATP rankings on Monday. The two will battle it out for the year-end No. 1 ranking at the Nitto ATP Finals in just over a week’s time.
Back to Paris, Djokovic was incredible on serve against Dimitrov, never facing a break point in 11 service games. He actually hasn’t faced a single break point in his last three matches against Kyle Edmund in the third round, Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals and Dimitrov in the semifinals.
Djokovic isn’t just a win away from his fifth Rolex Paris Masters title, having previously won here in 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2015, he’s also a win away from his 34th Masters 1000 title, which would put him one behind Nadal’s record of 35. He’s 33-16 in Masters 1000 finals and 76-34 in ATP finals.
“It’s a motivation to win my fifth Paris title every day,” the Serb said. “I feel good in such conditions, especially in France. You have the culture of tennis. You have a lot of support from the crowd.
“I’m motivated. I want to do well tomorrow. I hope to find my best tennis.”
Shapovalov will be playing his very first Masters 1000 final, his best previous Masters 1000 results being three semifinal finishes at Montreal in 2017, Madrid in 2018 and Miami earlier this year. This will be his second overall ATP final - he won his first career ATP title at Stockholm two weeks ago.
Among his victims en route to the final this week were No. 11 seed Fabio Fognini in the second round, No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev in the third round and No. 13 seed Gael Monfils in the quarters.
Djokovic has beaten Shapovalov in all three of their previous meetings, all of those meetings coming this year. He won in four sets in the third round of the Australian Open, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0, then in straight sets in the second round of Rome, 6-1, 6-3, and in the second round of Shanghai, 6-3, 6-3.
Djokovic after his semifinal win:
He’s not underestimating the Canadian at all, though.
“I think he’s reduced his unforced errors,” the Serb said. “His game has always been there, and he’s improved even more, especially this year. He’s played some impressive tennis, yesterday especially against Monfils. I’m looking forward to the final. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the best out of myself.”
Shapovalov won’t just be going for his first Masters 1000 title, he’ll also be going for his first win over a reigning No. 1. His best win to date came against a No. 2-ranked Nadal at Montreal in 2017.
As for his own ranking, the Canadian is projected to rise from No. 28 to No. 15 by reaching the final, and he’ll rise to No. 11 if he wins the title. Either way he’ll beat his previous career-high of No. 20.