Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer 7-6 (8-6) 5-7 7-6 (7-3) in their 47th meeting to reach Sunday’s final of the Paris Masters. He will face Karen Khachanov for the title and return to world number one no matter the outcome of the game.
The Serb, now unbeaten in 22 matches, is a four-time winner of the Paris Masters. A win on Sunday will see him draw level with Spain’s Rafael Nadal on 33 career Masters titles.
Swiss third seed Federer, who is chasing his 100th career title, seemed to be back to his best in Saturday’s semi-final and looked stronger as the match wore on.
The 37-year-old spurned set point in the first set tie-break and could only watch as Djokovic took the early advantage, roaring with emotion following a one-hour 14-minute epic.
But, with nothing separating the two in the second, Federer finally broke Djokovic to win the set and restore parity – the first service break of the match.
Federer hit several sublime backhand shots down the line in the deciding set but Djokovic’s serve was dominant, although the Serb grew frustrated as the set wore on, his opponent standing resolute.
The third set tie-break proved Federer’s undoing as he found himself unable to answer Djokovic, allowing the Serb to seal victory in three hours and two minutes.
Federer drove Djokovic to distraction by saving all 12 break points he faced – including one with a volley he wasn’t even able to see as the ball reared at him off the net.
Both served commandingly in the final set and the only anti-climax was the final tie-break in which Federer errors were evident and Djokovic showed no mercy.