Novak Djokovic always has one more life, and a little more pride and resistance than the rest. Thus, the world No. 1 took revenge against Holger Rune on Friday at the Rolex Paris Masters, where he defeated the 2022 champion by a hard-fought 7-5, 6-7 (3) and 6-4 in the reissue of last year’s final.
With his advance to the semi-finals, Djokovic now has a record of 48-9 in Paris, having reached the semi-finals nine times.
Last year, the 20-year-old Rune defeated Djokovic in the title match in Paris to claim his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy. This time, he didn’t make it easy for the Serbian either, after saving a match point in the second before stretching the definition to a decisive set. There, Djokovic made sure not to suffer the same fate and put his foot on the accelerator again to improve his hard court record to 31-1 in 2023.
“It was a match quite similar to last year’s final, it was within everyone’s reach in every set,” Djokovic said. “I played a horrible tie-break in the second set, probably the worst this year. But again you have to give him credit for staying mentally strong and playing solidly. We have a similar game. We move well, we defend well and we are players complete,” he added.
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Djokovic won 80% (12/15) of his second serve points in the first set and fended off a mid-match resurgence from Rune, which saw the Dane win nine of 10 points in a sprint in the second set. The Dane even saved a match point at 4-5 on serve before playing freely to equalize the match, with a power that unbalanced the 24-time Grand Slam champion.
As he often does, the 36-year-old regrouped in the third set, earning an early break before offering Rune few opportunities on the return to advance. With his two-hour, 54-minute win, Djokovic leveled his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with Rune at 2-2, having also lost to the Dane in Rome this year.
“He’s been playing a lot better in the last few weeks since working with Boris,” Djokovic said of Rune, who began working with Djokovic’s former coach, Boris Becker, last month. “It was strange to see Boris in the opponent’s box. I wish him and Holger the best.”
Meanwhile, the top seed, who survived a three-set scare against Tallon Griekspoor in the third round, now leads Alcaraz by 850 points, who was defeated by Roman Safiullin in his Paris debut at the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, which serves as a barometer in the battle for No. 1 of the year. Djokovic is chasing his eighth No. 1 of the year ATP presented by Pepperstone.
In search of his seventh crown at the Rolex Paris Masters, Djokovic will face, in his eighth semifinal of the season, Andrey Rublev, who came back from a set down to defeat Alex de Minaur 4-6, 6-3 and 6 -1. For his part, Rune leaves Paris eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. Of those below him, only De Minaur can surpass the Dane in the last qualifying spot for the Nitto ATP Finals. The Australian is currently 720 points behind Rune.
Rublev, who had only beaten de Minaur once in four attempts before tonight, improved to 8-4 in his quarterfinals this season en route to his third ATP Masters 1000 semi-final of the year. This year’s Monte Carlo champion, who also reached the Shanghai final last month, is tied with Jannik Sinner with 21 wins for third-most ATP Masters 1000 wins this year.
“I just had to keep fighting and try to be more aggressive,” Rublev said of his path to victory. “He was putting a lot of pressure on me and playing with my legs a lot and he wasn’t working when I wasn’t taking risks. So I knew he had to go after my shots and then it started working.”
Looking ahead to facing Djokovic, Rublev joked when asked what he had learned in his previous clashes with the world number 1. He has one win in five Lexus ATP Head2Head matches, but has failed to win a set in their three hardcourt matchups. “I haven’t learned… We’ll see tomorrow if I’ve learned anything.”
Did you know…?
Djokovic has a streak of 16 consecutive victories since he lost to Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final, and in total he has won 29 of the last 30 matches since the start of Roland Garros. He also improved to 8-2 in the quarterfinals this season.
The post first appeared on www.atptour.com