Djokovic Passes Wawrinka Test

Serb taken the distance in Paris

His run of straight sets was ended at 29 as he faced his sternest test in two months, but it was not enough to throw Novak Djokovic off his stride as the World No. 1 finished with aplomb to defeat Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 on Saturday to reach the final of the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.

The Serb will face Andy Murray in Sunday’s final and goes into the contest on a 21-match winning streak, dating back to the Cincinnati title match on 23 August, when he was beaten by Roger Federer.

Murray will look to halt that run and record his second win this season over Djokovic, having beaten the Serb in the final of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. But Djokovic has defeated the Scot on five other occasions in 2015, most recently for the loss of just four games in the Shanghai semi-finals.

"It's always a special kind of challenge because we have the rivalry that goes back for a long time," said Djokovic. "We played just recently in Shanghai. I played one of my best matches against him. I'm hoping I can play as well as I did there. But I'm sure that he's going to try to do something different.

"I have seen he is playing some terrific tennis this week. He's feeling good. It's going to be a close one. No question about it. It always is. It's always very physical, also very psychologically demanding. We push each other to the limit, and I don't expect anything less from that." 

Incredibly, the 28-year-old Djokovic will contest his 14th tour-level final in a row – an Open Era record. The right-hander has not failed to reach the title match at a tournament since the very first week of the season, when he was beaten in the Doha quarter-finals by Ivo Karlovic.

Djokovic recorded his ATP-best 77th win of the season as he overcame Wawrinka’s challenge in one hour and 51 minutes. Wawrinka had been responsible for denying Djokovic a slice of history when he stunned the Serb in the Roland Garros final in May, but despite his best efforts and some dazzling tennis, ultimately came out on the losing side in Paris to fall to a 4-19 mark in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

An early service break proved decisive in the first set and Djokovic seemed poised to put his foot down in the second set as he went up 2-0. But Wawrinka’s best was yet to come. The Swiss raised his level to earn his first break points of the contest in the fourth game and converted his fifth as Djokovic volleyed long to get back on serve.

Wawrinka then turned the set on his head with another service break in the sixth game as Djokovic’s forehand landed long and then fended off three break points in the following game to secure a 5-2 lead. The Lausanne native served out to level the match and end Djokovic’s incredible run of sets won, which dated back to a four-set victory over Federer in the US Open final.

How would Djokovic react to losing a set? By raising his game to another level. It served as a catalyst for the Serb who raced away with the third set with three service breaks, taking his tally in decisive sets this year to 16-2, with four of those by a 6-0 scoreline.

"I thought in the second, even though I lost the set, I felt there were games that were very close," assessed Djokovic. "I had close games and break points and I felt I'm there.

"Credit to Stan for playing a great second set and coming back, winning five games in a row, obviously serving more accurately, playing more powerfully from the baseline, getting more balls back, and it worked for him. He played very well.

"But I still felt like I was hitting the ball well. With this kind of feeling and approach, I got to the third set and played the best set of the tournament so far."

"The beginning [of the third set] was important," said Wawrinka, who had edged Rafael Nadal in a late-finishing quarter-final on Friday night. "Unfortunately, he started to play well. I did a few mistakes, first three games, and then he started to relax and play too fast. I had no more energy to come back at 0-3. He started to play his best game when he played really fast and went for winners. Then it was really tough." 

Djokovic is bidding to win the Paris crown for the fourth time, following victories in 2009 (d. Monfils), 2013 (d. Ferrer) and 2014 (d. Raonic). It would be his 26th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown and 10th trophy of the season.

More stories like this in: