Top two seeds Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray won their respective semi-finals at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris on Saturday to set up Sunday’s final clash in the latest instalment of their long rivalry.
Top seed and defending champion Djokovic defeated Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 for his 21st straight win dating back to August 23, while Murray edged past David Ferrer 6-4, 6-3.
Paris is the last of the nine Masters 1000 series events for the season, with Djokovic having already won five and Murray two.
The win over Wawrinka was sweet revenge for world number one Djokovic, who lost the French Open final to the Swiss star on the other side of Paris in June, a loss that prevented the 28-year-old Serb from completing his career haul of Grand Slam titles. As he subsequently won the Wimbledon and US Open titles, having already wrapped up the Australian Open, it also stopped him from becoming just the third man, after Don Budge and Rod Laver, to win all four Grand Slam titles in the same year.
“Credit to Stan for playing a great second set and coming back, winning five games in a row, obviously serving more accurately, playing more powerful from the baseline back of the court, getting more balls back, and it worked for him. He played very well,” Djokovic said.
“But I still felt like I was hitting the ball well. With this kind of feeling and approach, I got to the third set and played the best set of the tournament so far.”
A break in the third game was enough for Djokovic to take the first set and, when he broke to lead 2-0 in the second, it looked like a straightforward win against a player who had finished a punishing quarter-final match against Rafael Nadal well after midnight and got to bed at 3:45 am on Saturday.
But Wawrinka summoned up his last energies to run off five games in a row and level the set scores. In doing so, he put an end to Djokovic’s superb set winning streak at 29, dating back to the second set of the US Open final against Roger Federer in early September.
A love service game for Djokovic to start the third set, however, reversed the momentum and Wawrinka visibly wilted, allowing the Serb to power into the final for the third straight year.
Wawrinka said that it had not so much been the late finish against Nadal that had left him drained, but more the “exhausting” nature of his win in two tough tie-breaks.
Hot and cold
Earlier, Murray defeated Ferrer to reach the Paris Masters final for the first time, having fallen five times at the quarter-final stage.
The two-time major winner blew hot and cold in a roller-coaster of a match, but in the end he had too much firepower for the veteran Spaniard, a winner in Paris in 2012 and finalist a year later. “There were periods of the match that were a little bit physical, but I did feel like I dictated a lot of the points and I finished a lot of points up at the net and was able to shorten enough points to not make it too tiring,” said Murray, who had some back pain after his tough quarter-final win over Richard Gasquet.
Murray, whose end-of-season priority remains Britain’s Davis Cup final against Belgium in three weeks’ time, opened the stronger player, but Ferrer erased an early break to level at 4-4. The 28-year-old Scot then won eight successive points to lead 5-4 and served out comfortably to take the opening set.
Ferrer broke first in the second set to lead 3-1, but Murray promptly stepped up a gear to pocket the next five games and clinch his fourth Masters 1000 series final of the year, having won in Madrid and Montreal. It was his most comprehensive win over Ferrer since a 6-2, 6-3 win in Tokyo in 2011 and moved him 11-6 clear in their head-to-head.
Djokovic and Murray have played each other 29 times on the ATP Tour with Djokovic winning 20, and the Serb has won nine of their last 10 encounters, including their most recent match-up, a straight sets victory at the Shanghai Masters last month.