Novak Djokovic fought past a determined Taylor Fritz 7-6(5), 7-6(6) and now stands on the brink of making history in Turin.
Djokovic can draw level with Roger Federer with six ATP Finals titles and become the joint record-winner of the season finale.
He put aside doubts about his health and fitness as he barely missed a beat against a quick and powerful opponent.
Fritz was able to fight back from a break down in the first set to force a tiebreak but couldn’t capitalise on that or the 5-3 lead he held in the second set.
Djokovic took the match thanks to his clinical performance in the tiebreaker.
“I had to fight to survive,” said Djokovic after the match.
“I didn’t feel very reactive today or very comfortable. I knew coming into today’s match from yesterday’s gruelling battle against [Daniil] Medvedev I knew it would take me some time to adjust and find the dynamic movement I need against Fritz, who is one of the best servers on the Tour.”
Djokovic felt that this was a match where he could ill afford to give his opponent any sort of opening.
“I had to be very patient, I didn’t start the second set very well,” said Djokovic. “But I managed to break his serve at 5-4 when he was serving for the set, like when Medvedev was serving for the match yesterday. In those moments I find another gear and managed to hold my nerve and make him play another shot in the tie-break.
“I am very pleased to have overcome this one as I don’t think it was one of my best days with my tennis, but I managed to hang in there.”
Djokovic zeroed in on Fritz’s second serve as his path to victory and he was the more clinical of the two in his return game.
Fritz felt that the loss was one of fine margins.
“Typically I’m good at tie-breakers,” reflected Fritz. “I feel like my tie-breaker record throughout my career has definitely been really good. Today I played both tie-breakers pretty well… I’m right there. It’s small margins in tennis. It’s always like that. It’s very small margins. [I] just need to get that little bit better and I’m right there.”
Djokovic believes the fans helped keep him dialled in against the dangerous Fritz.
“I enjoy having the atmosphere,” Djokovic added. “When people come and watch you play, they expect some kind of entertainment and good tennis and hopefully they enjoyed themselves, especially towards the end of the match. Every point against a player like Fritz who has a big serve counts.”
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