PARIS (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic ruined Roger Federer’s ambitions of a 100th career title as he outlasted his great adversary 7-6(6) 5-7 7-6(3) in an epic Paris Masters semi-final that stretched his remarkable unbeaten run to 22 matches on Saturday.
In a 47th meeting between the two greats, the stubborn Djokovic simply refused to be beaten as he eked out a fourth successive victory over Federer in a tiebreak decider after three compelling hours.
It gave the Serbian the opportunity to mark his return to world number one today by winning a record-extending fifth Paris title.
Djokovic, who had complained of competing with flu-like symptoms in his previous matches this week, was proud and relieved to repel a wonderful challenge from Federer, who appeared close to his imperious best.
“We’ve had epic matches throughout our rivalry but this one definitely ranks as one of the best matches we played. High quality tennis,” Djokovic told reporters.
“Next to the match I played against (Rafa) Nadal in the Wimbledon semis, this was definitely the most exciting match I’ve played this year, and probably the best quality match that I was part of.”
Even though he was not broken once, it was still not enough for the 37-year-old Swiss, whose nerve failed him in an anti-climactic final tiebreak in which he served a double fault and made two more careless groundstroke errors.
“For the most part I can be happy, my level was good, but losing is never fun,” said Federer. “It’s intense, it’s good tennis, we care about winning, we don’t like losing. I can tell you that right now.”
“Novak is obviously on a roll. You can feel it.”
Federer was seeking to become only the second man after Jimmy Connors to win a century of professional tour titles following his 99th win in Basel, only to fall agonisingly short.