Former world number one Novak Djokovic downs Roman Safiullin to advance to the Tel Aviv final on Saturday, his fourth thus far this season.
Top seed Novak Djokovic outlasted Roman Safiullin 6-1, 7-6(3) in one hour, 35 minutes and will face either Croatian Marin Cilic or Frenchman Constant Lestienne at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open championship match on Sunday.
In his on-court interview, he addressed their matchup: “I think it was a very competitive match, especially in the second set.”
Adding: “I must say I was quite emotional on the court today in the second set, there was a lot of tension, and that was also due to his aggressive style of tennis. Big serves, and when he has time, he’s so solid from the forehand and backhand corner.”
“I knew that I had to stay very strong and that he was definitely going to raise his level in the second set, which happened. I was serving for the match and played a couple of loose points, but credit to him for fighting back. It was an enjoyable evening on the court, for sure.”
In their first meeting on Tour, a packed stadium saw the 21-Grand Slam champion making a flying start to the opener, breaking Safiullin to lead 4-0 in less than 20 minutes.
Dictating play with his serve, the Serbian marched to seal a nearly flawless first set 6-1 after 23 minutes.
The top seed won 88 percent of his first serve points compared to his opponent’s 50 percent, converting two of six breakpoint opportunities.
However, the 25-year-old regrouped into the second set, hitting three aces on his serve game to jump ahead 1-0.
Then, the Belgrade native easily held his serve, but there would be no easy sailing in an encounter that unfolded into a challenging, breathtaking semifinal.
Serving very well, the World No. 104 raised to the occasion, showcasing the high level of tennis that led him to reach the second tour-level semifinal of his career in Tel Aviv.
Yahor Yatsyk’s pupil managed to stay ahead in the score until, at 4-4, Djokovic seized his chances, holding his nerve to break his adversary in a crucial moment, stepping up in the score at 5-4, for the first time in the set.
Under pressure, the 35-year-old got broken serving for the match, hitting a double fault in the process.
For his part, the Podolsk-born player would level up the contest once and again, stealing back the lead at 6-5. But regardless of his efforts, he would fail to prevent Wimbledon’s reigning champion from emerging victorious.
Djokovic fought back in style to force a tiebreak he would win with authority, wrapping up the set and the match to secure his place in the ATP 250 tournament final round.
“In the tiebreak, he helped me out, he missed a couple of forehands, but I stayed solid and played the right shots at the right time,” Serbia’s number one outlined.
“Of course, in the semifinals of a tournament, you can expect to have a tough opponent that will challenge you to the very last shot, which actually happened today, and I’m just pleased to overcome the challenge.”
Overall, the 88-time ATP titlist won 84 percent with his first serve points while Safiullin won 66 percent on his.
In addition, he fired seven aces, committing two double faults and converting three of seven breakpoint opportunities.
On Sunday, the World No. 7 will seek to lift the trophy in Israel, claiming his third title of the year, the 89th of his career.