Novak Stretched, But Battles To 21st Straight Win
Novak Djokovic saw his personal-best 30-set winning streak come to an end on Friday at the Rolex Paris Masters. But the Serbian, who will ascend to the top spot in the ATP Rankings on Monday, bounced back to beat fifth seed Marin Cilic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to claim his 21st consecutive tour-level match victory.
"It was a big challenge. I was a break down in the third set. And really, this match could have gone either way," Djokovic said. "I won the match, but if he would've won it, it would've been absolutely deserved."
The win against Cilic is Djokovic’s 10th victory against a Top 10 opponent this season, and he has now claimed nine matches in a row against that elite group. Djokovic owns a 30-1 record since the start of Wimbledon.
While Djokovic entered the quarter-finals with a 15-2 advantage in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Cilic, there was little doubt that the Croatian could put up a fight, having defeated Djokovic for the title at the Fever-Tree Championships earlier this year.
But while Cilic grabbed the first break in the deciding set with an immaculate crosscourt forehand passing shot that landed right on the line, Djokovic remained solid. Even after breaking his racquet in frustration after watching that passing shot sail by, the second seed settled down and kept his defensive pressure up. And after getting the break back, it was the Serbian who gained the decisive advantage with a crosscourt forehand passing shot winner of his own, ultimately holding to love to clinch the match when Cilic hit a backhand in the net after two hours and 11 minutes.
"Break point, passing shot, he was at the net, I managed to find the good angle and then break his serve," Djokovic said of the tightness of the moment.
It has been an especially impressive week for Djokovic because the Serbian says he has been struggling with "kind of a flu".
"It's not easy to perform every single day," Djokovic said. "The energy levels are not as high, and I try to manage the situation. But I've had this particular case before so I hope I can progress day by day."
The Parisian fans are in for a blockbuster semi-final, as Djokovic will face third seed Roger Federer. It will either be Djokovic’s 47th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Federer. Federer is pursuing his 100th tour-level crown, after earning crown No. 99 in Basel last week.
"I'm just pleased to be in the semis," Djokovic said. "I know I can play better. At times tonight I was playing really well. At times, not that great. So there are things that I have to obviously improve for the next one, and I'm looking forward to it."
Cilic could have guaranteed his place at the season finale at The O2 in London from 11-18 November if he beat Djokovic, but the Croatian still earned his spot later in the evening after Federer defeated Kei Nishikori.