Roger Sets Blockbuster Paris SF Against Novak
Roger Federer continued chasing his 100th tour-level title on Friday with an impressive 6-4, 6-4 victory against in-form Kei Nishikori, setting a blockbuster Rolex Paris Masters semi-final against four-time tournament winner Novak Djokovic.
It will be Federer’s 47th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Djokovic, who has won 21 tour-level matches in a row, and 30 of his past 31 matches dating back to the start of Wimbledon. In their only clash this season, Djokovic defeated Federer in straight sets to win the Western & Southern Open to complete the Career Golden Masters.
"I want to play well. I want to try to win, obviously. I know he's on a hot streak so I think it's going to be tough. But nevertheless I think I've got nothing to lose," Federer said. "I also like this type of surface, I like playing indoors. Indoors has treated me very well, winning Rotterdam and Basel. I think I'm ready to do something tomorrow, but clearly I have to play a lot of good tennis tomorrow because those are the question Novak asks of you. It's not just maybe a serve here or there or a return here or there, he's going to ask the question time and time again because he defends very well and he plays well on the offence and plus he's serving consistently well at the moment so I think it's going to be tough."
Federer will have plenty of motivation to avenge that loss, as he stands two matches from becoming the second player behind Jimmy Connors (109) to win 100 titles. Last week, the Swiss lifted his ninth hometown trophy at the Swiss Indoors Basel to give him 99 crowns overall, and he has now won seven matches in a row to improve his record to 46-7 in 2018.
Federer leads Nishikori 7-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, and the Swiss has triumphed in their past six meetings, including a match just three weeks ago at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. While Nishikori broke the 37-year-old twice in China, Federer’s serve dominated their Parisian quarter-final, as the third seed lost just one first-serve point (27/28) and saved the only break point he faced. Federer won a higher percentage of second-serve points (59%) than Nishikori did on his first serve (57%).
"I think for me it was really important to go through two sets and not get broken and play very consistently and solid and not make too many wild shots on my own service games and just play solid and I think I was able to deliver that in a very nice way today. Kei is one of the best returners in the game and if you allow him to come into your service games too frequently, he's going to really hurt you. I think I was able to avoid that and then winning straight sets is always nice. It saves energy for not only what is to come tomorrow or the following week, but for your career. That's why you could be more successful if you win quick matches. I've done that well throughout my career and it was nice to get one again tonight."
The 2011 Paris champion, who is into the last four here for the first time since 2013, only landed 52 per cent of his first serves. But he placed his delivery quite well, painting the lines with various spins and paces to keep an elite returner in Nishikori from being aggressive on return. That kept the Japanese star from controlling many baseline rallies, allowing Federer to cruise to victory in 79 minutes.
By virtue of his loss against Federer, Nishikori will finish ninth in the ATP Race To London. That means that Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem have clinched the final two spots at the Nitto ATP Finals, to take place at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.
Did You Know?
Saturday's semi-final between Federer and Djokovic will be their 10th consecutive meeting at the Nitto ATP Finals, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event or a Grand Slam.