Djokovic Extends Winning Streak, Plays Zverev In Shanghai SFs
Anderson strikes 16 aces, but Djokovic wins 85 per cent of his first-service points
Novak Djokovic extended his winning streak to 16 matches and maintained his bid to finish at year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings for the fifth time on Friday by reaching the Rolex Shanghai Masters semi-final. The second-seeded Serbian, a three-time champion at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, won a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final over seventh seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6(1), 6-3 in one hour and 44 minutes.
Djokovic could move to within 35 points of No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal in the ATP Race To London — the year-to-date standings — if he lifts his 32nd Masters 1000 trophy on Sunday. He could also rise to No. 2 in the ATP Rankings if he advances to the final, and Roger Federer does not win the title.
He will now prepare to face fourth-seeded German Alexander Zverev, who became the fifth singles player to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November, as a result of beating Kyle Edmund of Great Britain in the quarter-finals. Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Juan Martin del Potro had already booked their spots at the prestigious season finale. Buy Your London Tickets
When asked about playing Zverev, Djokovic said, “He has improved a lot, and he has established himself as a top player. It's going to be definitely a close match. I think, quite similar in style of the play to today's match. Kevin is a big server, big hitter from the back of the court, really aggressive, tall. Sascha is similar to that. In these kind of conditions, everything happens so quickly, so I kind of have to be alert, in a way, and very focused from the very first point. [I need to] try to get as many serves back in play as I have done today. I thought I returned well, and that was probably one of the keys of the match.”
Djokovic has now won 29 of his 31 matches overall since losing to then No. 72-ranked Cecchinato 6-3, 7-6(4), 1-6, 7-6(11) on 5 June in the Roland Garros quarter-finals. With a 43-10 record on the season (21-4 on hard courts), the Serbian has captured two Grand Slam championship trophies this year the Wimbledon and the US Open (d. Del Potro), plus the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (d. Federer). Victory in Cincinnati saw Djokovic become the first player to win titles at all nine Masters 1000 events since the start of the series in 1990.
In a tense first set, Anderson could not convert one set point at 6-5, with Djokovic serving at Ad-Out, when he hooked a forehand wide. Having completed an eight-minute service hold, Djokovic grew in confidence to win the first three points of the tie-break. The Serbian won 10 of the last 11 points and strike a backhand winner — his 17th of the 63-minute set — to gain the momentum in their eighth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.
Anderson’s first-service began to falter and Djokovic soon seized his chance in the second set. When Anderson struck a backhand into the net at 0-1, 15/40, Djokovic didn’t look back and continued to mix up his service speed and placement. Djokovic won 85 per cent of his first-service points and withstood 16 aces from Anderson.
“I faced one [break point] today, and it was a set point,” said Djokovic. “I managed to pull through that one, and I haven't lost too many points on my serve. So I think that's a part of my game that maybe is undervalued in a way. But that helps me obviously when I have an opportunity to step in on a second serve or swing through in the baseline points… The conditions are very quick, so holding your serve comfortably is probably the key.”
Anderson, a winner of four ATP World Tour titles including the inaugural New York Open (d. Querrey) in February, is now 40-16 on the year. He is currently in seventh position in the ATP Race To London, looking to clinch one of the three remaining singles berths at the eight-man Nitto ATP Finals.