• ATP World Tour Finals

Djokovic survives Nishikori scare to reach final

Nick Atkin at the O2 Arena
November 15, 2014
Novak Djokovic will face either Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka © Getty Images
Enlarge

Novak Djokovic earned himself a shot at a third consecutive World Tour Finals title after battling past Kei Nishikori in three sets in Saturday's first semi-final at the O2 Arena.

After a litany of one-sided matches in the round robin stage, Djokovic looked set to continue the theme by easing through the first set but Nishikori stunned the world No.1 by taking the second to force a decider.

It was just the third time at these Tour Finals that the O2 Arena had seen a third set, and Djokovic regained his composure to eventually ease through it for a 6-1 3-6 6-0 win in one hour and 27 minutes.

Kei Nishikori won the second set 6-3 against Novak Djokovic © Getty Images
Enlarge

"Honestly, today I found it a little bit difficult mentally to stay concentrated throughout the whole match," Djokovic said in his press conference. "After emotional three matches I had, especially yesterday when I achieved the goal to finish as No.1 of the world, knowing that, I felt a little bit flat emotionally. I needed a little bit more time to kind of give myself a boost.

"I was fortunate because in the beginning of the third set, he had break points. If he broke me, the match could have gone either way. I managed to find that little bit of strength and get a win today.

"Tomorrow is the last match of the season. It's one of the biggest tournaments in the world, aside of the grand slams. This is already the biggest possible motivation. I will try to give everything I have."

Djokovic will now face either Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka in Sunday's final.

"It's a great match, they're both playing very well, especially Roger," Djokovic said in his on-court interview. "I'm going to get some popcorn and enjoy it from my bed."

Djokovic, who clinched the year-end No.1 spot for the third time in the past four years with his victory over Tomas Berdych on Friday, is into his fourth final at this tournament.

He is also now unbeaten in 14 matches at the World Tour Finals and 31 matches overall indoors - a run stretching back over two years.

Nishikori was bidding to become the first debutant to reach the final since David Ferrer in 2007 but Djokovic had lost just nine games in six sets coming into the match.

Djokovic broke for 3-1 after Nishikori missed a volley at the net before sealing the double break and serving out the first set in just 23 minutes. He dropped just two points on serve throughout it - the second of those on set point with a simple missed volley at the net.

The verdict

  • Novak Djokovic had it all his own way in the round robin stage of the World Tour Finals but predicted things wouldn't be so easy against Kei Nishikori.
  • It proved to be a smart assumption - Nishikori has the weapons to push the top players all the way and, before this match, was 21-2 this season in deciding sets.
  • He had Djokovic flustered when he broke him in the second set - the world No.1 appeared to lose his cool with the crowd, who simply wanted to see something resembling a competitive match, given the way the tournament has gone.
  • The match did indeed go to a decider but in the end it was easy for Djokovic, who, along with Roger Federer, is on another level at the moment to everyone else.

Djokovic continued in the same vein as he broke in the first game of the second set, but double faulted to hand Nishikori an immediate break back. The world No.1 then sarcastically applauded the crowd, who cheered with the possibility of a third set increasing. Djokovic later said he "should know better" than to have reacted.

Nishikori continued to frustrate Djokovic and brought up a break point at 4-3 before edging a terrific rally with a passing winner down the line. He then served it out to take the match into a third - it was the first set Djokovic had lost since becoming a father last month.

Nishikori has the best decisive win-loss record in the Open Era - coming into the match he was 21-2 this season in third and fifth sets - and immediately brought up two break points in the third.

However, he found the net on both occasions with Djokovic eventually holding before pouncing on some wayward forehands from Nishikori to break for 2-0. Djokovic then blew away a dispirited Nishikori, breaking twice more for a third-set bagel, sealed with a double fault from Nishikori.

"When he's [Djokovic] playing well, I don't think anybody can stop him," said Nishikori. "But you see today, he got little bit tight in second set. If I could stay there little more focus, then I think I have some chances to beat him.

"I think I'm getting really close. I beat Roger this year and also Novak, too. It's not like I can't beat them."

He added: "It was one of the best year for me. Even this was first experience, I did really well. Little bit disappointed. I could go final, but he was little better."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
ESPN staff Close