One of the semifinal matches at this year’s Paris Masters event will bring up the 47th installment of one of tennis’ most gripping rivalries.
Novak Djokovic, the 31-year-old Serb, who has had a sensational comeback year, will take on 37-year-old world number three, Roger Federer, for a place in the final of the year-ending Masters 1000 event in Paris.
Both men have played really well en route to the semifinals in Paris. Federer, on his return to the event for the first time since 2015, hasn’t dropped a set so far. He has brought to fore his overall mastery of the game and posted better performances than that of the Swiss Indoors in Basel last week where he won his 99th career singles title.
Federer has spent lesser time on court than Djokovic this week. The great Swiss benefitted from a walkover in the second round before going on to dismiss Fabio Fognini in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals. Against Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals on Friday, Federer delivered a rock solid performance, moving well, serving well, and then doing just enough damage on the return to claim a 6-4, 6-4 win against the Japanese.
Djokovic, meanwhile, has been on a roll since the middle of the year. The Serb has engineered arguably the sport’s most remarkable comeback in history, moving from No.22 in the world in June to No.1. In the process, he has won 30 of his last 31 matches and is currently on a 21-match winning streak.
In Paris this week, he was only really troubled by Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals. Prior to that, he had made light work of Joao Sousa and Damir Dzumhur in the second and third rounds, respectively. Against Cilic, however, the Serb struggled with his serve in the opening set and lost it, before turning on the heat in the second and third sets and then rolled through to claim a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
While Djokovic holds a slender 24-22 lead over Federer in career meetings, he has dominated the Swiss in recent years, winning 7 in their last 9 matches stretching back to the Indian Wells in 2015.
Djokovic will fancy his chances here today; no doubts, given his lethal form. But Federer has said he has something in store for the Serb.
“I want to play well. I want to try to win, obviously,” Federer said on his semifinal match with Djokovic. “I know he [Djokovic] is on a hot streak so I think it’s going to be tough.
“But nevertheless, I think I’ve got nothing to lose. 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 questions Novak asks of you.
While Federer already has a game plan on ground against Djokovic, he is wary of the Serb’s quality.
“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.
“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.”
Will Federer execute his plan to a T and stay on track for a first Masters 1000 title this season, or will Djokovic keep his winning streak running?
This match is live on Centre Court at the AccorHotels Arena on Saturday from 4:30pm Nigerian time.