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ATP Rolex Paris Masters Tennis – Djokovic Defeats Federer, To Face Khachanov In The Final From Richard Evans

Karen Kachanov of Russia returns the ball to Dominic Thiem of Austria during their semifinal match at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 03 November 2018.  EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON



It was won and lost in the 3rd set tie-break, this 47th edition of the Novak Djokovic – Roger Federer Classic Series and it kept a packed 15,000 crowd enthralled to the last point in the semi-final of the Rolex Paris Masters. Not, perhaps the best of their duels but an excellent one, nonetheless, with Federer showing he is still fully competitive at this level even though two errors that spoke of pressure cost him dear.


They came on the 4th and 5th points of the deciding breaker – a mistimed forehand long and a double fault – and they gave Djokovic a 7-6, 5-7, 7-6 victory which he certainly deserved. That sets up the Serb for a fascinating Sunday battle against the strapping 22-year-old Russian, Karen Khachanov, who will be appearing in his first ATP Masters 1000 final after outhitting Dominic Thiem with surprising ease 6-4, 6-1.


It was the first time Federer and Djokovic had met since playing on the European team together at the Laver Cup in Chicago and the intensity of today’s duel showed that a closer personal relationship had changed nothing.


“I really enjoyed Chicago, we played doubles together and got to know each other better but it changed nothing, nor should it,” said Federer. “It’s still tough and fair and I like it that way. We still care about winning.”


That much was evident by the Serb’s reaction to winning a tight first set and, even more so, at the end when he let out a roar of delight. It was, if anything, a compliment to his 37-year-old opponent who had played the better tennis in the third set before digging himself out of two break points at 4-4 in typical fashion – first with an ace and then forcing a Djokovic error.


There had been a moment, too, when Novak looked aghast as Federer, proving his reflexes are as sharp as ever, stuck his racket on a ball that flew at him should height off the net cord. And, of course, the angled drop volley was perfect. As the crowd went wild, Djokovic could only smile.


Federer was pleased that he had raised his level, of necessity, from winning in Basel last week and will go to London for the ATP Finals feeling relaxed. “I’ll have a little rest and then be ready,” he said.


For Khachanov, it was the fact that he was achieving some goals right at the end of the year which seemed to please him most. “To play at this level, especially in last tournament of the year, is very satisfying,” he said. “I have been feeling that getting close to big players but not winning has to turn around sometime and now it has.”


No question about that. The giant Russian battered his way past three top ten players – John Isner, Sascha Zverev and Thiem — on his way to the final, a run of success that should give him that extra confidence boost he will need when facing Djokovic in the final.


Khachanov’s step up this week will have come as no surprise to many experts such as former French No 1 Pierre Barthes who studies the game closely and told me at the start of the week, “I especially like Khachanov among all the young players. He hits the ball so hard and has good balance for such a big guy. He can become very good.”


Win or lose on Sunday, that assessment will remain valid. Karen appears to be a very level headed young man who is unlikely to get carried away by his success. He had a tough time serving out for the first set when Thiem forced a break point but steadied himself at this crucial moment.


“I may have lost concentration on my serve and made a couple of mistakes just then but winning that first set was big for me, I started the second really pumped,” he said in his fluent English.


Djokovic will need to return well when he meets the new generation, having take of the old – for the time being at least.

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