Novak Djokovic edges closer to year-end No 1 record with Paris Masters quarter-final win

Novak Djokovic speaks following his US Open defeat against Daniil Medvedev.

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Novak Djokovic moved a step closer to clinching the year-end No 1 ranking with a straight-sets win over the in-form Taylor Fritz in Paris. The top seed was facing the recent St Petersburg finalist in the quarter-final, and was able to defeat the new American No 1 despite not being at his dominant best.

Djokovic is competing for the first time since his crushing defeat in the US Open final.

The Serb came within one match of history, as a title in Flushing Meadows would have made him the first man in 52 years to win the Calendar Grand Slam and the first male player to reach a record 21 Major titles, but he was defeated by Daniil Medvedev in the final.

He needed three sets to defeat world No 40 Marton Fucsovics on Tuesday (November 2) before getting a walkover into the quarter-final to face a tough test in the in-form Taylor Fritz, who said he felt he could “push” the top seed, after their bizarre five-set clash at the Australian Open in February.

Djokovic and Fritz both appeared nervy in the early stages of the match, as they broke each other in the second and third games, and again in the eighth and ninth games.

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The Serb got a crucial break to serve for the set at 5-3 but was immediately broken back, though managed to close out the first set on Fritz’s service game to clinch the opener 6-4.

Both players appeared to struggle on their second serves, with Djokovic winning just 14% of the points on his own second serve, while his 24-year-old opponent won 25%, but it was the first serve where the top seed got the better of Fritz, making 70% of the shots and winning 69%, competed to Fritz’s 58% and 50% respectively.

The second set started much like the first with back-to-back breaks, though the world No 26 was unable to capitalise when he forced more break points in the third game.

It proved costly for Fritz, who found himself broken by the Serb while serving at 2-3, as the crowd kicked into life and backed the five-time champion.

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Spurred on by the crowd’s support, Djokovic looked like his unstoppable self once again as he held on until the end of the set and failed to give Fritz a look-in on his service games, claiming a 6-4 6-3 victory while his wife and daughter watched on from the stands.

He is now through to the last-four where he will face Hubert Hurkacz, who clinched the final qualification spot at the ATP Finals with his win over James Duckworth earlier on Friday (November 5).

It also brings the 20-time Grand Slam champion within two wins of becoming year-end No 1 for a record seventh time, a record that would see him surpass his idol Pete Sampras, with the pair currently tied on six end-of-season finishes at the top spot.

While there are other scenarios that could see Djokovic take the top spot for the end of 2021, dependent on his US Open final conqueror Medvedev, the top seed can take matters into his own hands by winning the title in Paris this week.

However, if Medvedev loses his match against home favourite, qualifier Hugo Gaston, later on Friday (November 5), he will hand the Serb the year-end No 1 ranking.

Djokovic will now face Miami Open champion Hurkacz for the first time since the young Pole made his big breakthrough on tour.

He beat the 24-year-old at Roland Garros and Wimbledon back in 2019, dropping one set to Hurkacz in a tiebreak in the third-round at the All England Club.

Hurkacz himself will be feeling free on the tennis court, having earned himself a long-awaited place in the ATP Finals after finding himself in a tight race with Cameron Norrie and Jannik Sinner for the final spot.

“Being qualified for the ATP Finals is a great achievement for me. As a child, you dream about it and you never know if it’s gonna be possible. I’m very happy,” he said, following his victory over Duckworth.

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