More clinical than brilliant, Novak Djokovic, sometimes in difficulty but oh so realistic in key moments, ended up beating Taylor Fritz in two tie-breaks (7-6 7-6 ), Saturday afternoon in the semi-finals of the Turin Masters.
The Serb thus qualifies for the eighth final of his career in the masters tournament, the first since 2018. He will aim Sunday, against Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev who face each other this Saturday evening (from 9 p.m.), his sixth coronation in the event. He would then equal Roger Federer’s record.
From the start, Djokovic took the measure of the service of Fritz, one of the main weapons of the American. Thanks to his eye and his sense of anticipation, the best receiver in the world immediately put his opponent under pressure. Logically in difficulty in the exchange, the 9th in the world sometimes forced his strikes. At 2-2, he made several errors and gave up his white lead.
Jostled, Djokovic is doing well in the profession
Until then two tones above, “Nole” then experienced a brief slump. Four unforced errors, three on the forehand side and one, coarse, on the backhand, offered Fritz the break on a plateau. The match then evened out. At each start of fire on his commitment (0-30 to 3-3 and 15-30 to 5-5), the American found his first ball to hit winning aces or services.
Superior to the exchange, the Serb meanwhile fed on the many opposing unforced errors (20 in the first set) to stick to the score. The first round was finally decided on a tie-break. Led 5-4, Djokovic made the difference thanks to several big forehand accelerations. The last, long line, after a long rally at 6-5, left Fritz unresponsive. Blocked at four small winning shots up to 6-6, the former world No. 1 succeeded as much during the decisive game to take the lead.
Facing a player he had always beaten in five confrontations (only two sets lost, at the Australian Open 2021), Djokovic seemed to have the cards in hand. However, he got tangled up at the start of the second set. Too wait-and-see, he suffered the aggressiveness of the winner of the Indian Wells Masters 1000 in March and gave up his commitment.
The meeting, quite disjointed from the start, fell into a false rhythm. White games or express are linked. At 4-3, 0-30, Fritz chained four game winners in a row, including a sumptuous backhand drop volley. At 5-3, 0-30, after two quick faults in Djokovic’s exchange, we were heading for a third set, but the Serb closed the game and the American, despite two aces at 5-4, is tense when returning to height.
“Yesterday Medvedev was serving for the match. Today, Taylor (Fritz) served for the set. In these moments, I find a little something extra. It wasn’t my best day in tennis, but I held on.”
At 30A, behind a big first, the son of Kathy May (world No. 10 in 1977), visibly embarrassed by a cry in the public, blacked out a reverse penalty in the net. A new backhand fault in stride cost him his break in advance. As in the first set, everything was decided in an intense and spectacular tie-break, like this exceptional exchange concluded by a smash from Fritz to equalize at 5-5. The American saved a match point at 6-5 (backhand fouls by Djokovic), but at 7-6, his forehand completely escaped him. The game, too.
“I had to fight to survive, commented Djokovic on the court. I didn’t feel very responsive or very comfortable. After the big fight against Medvedev (victory 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 in 3h10) yesterday (Friday), I suspected that I would probably need time to adapt, find the right rhythm and the right dynamic in my movements in front of Fritz, one of the best servers on the circuit. I had to be patient. »
“I didn’t start the second set very well, but I managed to unbreak at 5-4, he continued. Yesterday, Medvedev served for the match. Today (Saturday), Taylor served for the set. In these moments, I find a little something extra. I managed to hold my nerves, to make him play the shot more. I’m very happy to be out of it. It wasn’t my best day in tennis, but I held on. »