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Ricky’s preview and pick for the Nitto ATP Finals semis: Djokovic vs. Fritz

In his debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals, Taylor Fritz has played his way out of round-robin competition and into the semis.

His reward is a date with none other than five-time champion Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic and Fritz will be facing each other for the sixth time in their careers on Saturday when they battle for a spot in the championship match. The head-to-head series is as lopsided as their lifetime achievements at the year-end championship (whereas Fritz is a rookie, Djokovic is a five-time champion). All five of their previous encounters have gone the Serb’s way, including four in straight sets. Their only competitive contest was a memorable one at the 2021 Australian Open, where Djokovic was less than 100 percent during their third-round showdown but persevered to a 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 victory on his eventual way to the title.

Can Fritz keep it close once more when he gets a sixth shot at the 21-time Grand Slam champion? The very quick conditions inside Turin’s Pala Alpitour are such that it’s possible. Fritz compiled a 2-1 round-robin record with wins over Rafael Nadal and Felix Auger-Aliassime, losing only to Casper Ruud in a third-set tiebreaker. The ninth-ranked American did not face a single break point against either Nadal or Auger-Aliassime and he was broken just once by Ruud.

“It goes without saying that I have to serve really well,” Fritz assured. “Lucky for me I have been feeling like the serve has been strong. I have to return well and when I get my opportunities I have to take them. I can’t waste opportunities against someone like Novak.”

Opportunities have been few and far between for anyone when Djokovic is on the other side of the net. The 35-year-old has already won two titles this fall and he clinched the top spot in the Red Group by beating both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev in straight sets. Djokovic faced only one break point in those two matches combined–and saved it. He then outlasted Daniil Medvedev in a third-set tiebreaker despite not even having to win.

With the way Fritz is serving, this could be somewhat interesting from start to finish. However, Djokovic is looking extremely motivated and his tennis at the moment is borderline flawless. Look for another straight-set victory.

Pick: Djokovic in 2

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.