Novak Djokovic ended Roger Federer’s hopes for a Masters 1000 title this year as he outlasted the Swiss 7-6, 5-7, 7-6 in an epic semifinal thriller on Saturday.
In a classic for the ages, it was Djokovic who had the edge after over 3 hours of gripping tennis, stretching his unbeaten run to 22 matches and booking his place in the final.
“We had epic matches throughout our rivalry but this one definitely ranks as one of the best matches we played,” Djokovic told atpworldtour.com.
“High quality tennis. Next to the match I played against Nadal in the semis of Wimbledon, this was definitely the most exciting match I was playing this year, and probably the best quality tennis match that I was part of.
“It was also expected, because when I get to play Roger, I know I have to get the best out of myself in order to win. And that’s why our rivalries and matches are so special.”
Federer, who clinched the Swiss Indoors title last week, was bidding to become only the second man after America’s Jimmy Connors to win a century of titles and played close to his brilliant best, but somehow came up short at the very crucial moments, serving a double fault and making two more careless groundstroke errors in the final set tie-break.
Djokovic has now, for the first time in 12 years, won four consecutive matches against Federer, stretching his lead in career meetings against the Swiss to 25-22.
The Serb will face Russia’s Karen Khachanov in Sunday’s final.
Khachanov continued to impress as he outclassed sixth seed, Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-1 in 70 minutes to come within a match of his biggest career title.
“It was one of my best matches, and what I’m happy about is that I was increasing my level, which shows that I’m becoming a better player,” Khachanov said.
The 22-year-old Russian, who will play in his first career Masters 1000 final on Sunday, will hope he has just enough to topple Novak Djokovic.