Semi-finalists meet for first time this season
Novak Djokovic put forth a Herculean effort to finish his Nitto ATP Finals group campaign at 3-0, battling Daniil Medvedev for more than three hours on Friday with his place in the knockout rounds already secured. Roughy 21 hours after a forehand winner punctuated his victory, the first serve will be struck in the Serbian’s semi-final against Taylor Fritz in Turin.
Djokovic takes a 5-0 ATP Head2Head record against the American into the contest, their most recent meeting coming one year ago at the Rolex Paris Masters. Will the 35-year-old be able to recover in time to extend his two winning streaks?
“Well, I’m not the freshest guy right now, as I was maybe yesterday,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. But he won’t be wasting any of his precious energy worrying about his reserves.
“On the physical side, I’m not worried because worry just depletes you of the vital energy you need,” he continued. “I’ve had many cases in my life before where I managed to recover very quickly. Hopefully that’s going to be the case again.”
One of those previous instances came when Djokovic won the 2021 Australian Open despite an abdominal oblique tear — an injury which first seriously affected him during a third-round matchup against none other than Fritz.
The American is through to his fourth tour-level final of the season in Turin, and he has won the title at each 2022 event in which he’s reached the final four. While Fritz is not reading too far into that statistic, he takes pride in his record at the business end of tournaments.
“I didn’t know that until the last tournament. I’m just going to continue not really thinking about it,” he said.
“For me, that is probably the most impressive stat because the difference in points to winning a tournament and losing the semi-finals is massive. One of the only reasons why I’m ranked where I’m ranked is because every time I’ve gone to the semis, I’ve been able to win the tournament. It’s been a big part of my year.”
After wins against Rafael Nadal and Felix Auger-Aliassime earned him his semi-final place, Fritz is looking forward to the chance to pick up his first win against Djokovic on the ATP Tour’s biggest stage.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said of the occasion. “I look forward to playing Novak. Obviously he’s one of the best, if not the best. He’s done pretty well here in the past.”
Both Djokovic and Fritz have been at home on the indoor hard court at the Pala Alpitour. Fritz feels the slick conditions are an equaliser on the serve, comments which suggest a benefit for Djokovic in this particular match.
“Holding serve by far is the most important thing on this court, holding serve and returning,” the American said. “But you don’t necessarily have to be serving amazing. If you just hit your spots, take care of the serve, it’s going to look like everyone is serving incredible.”
While Djokovic may not possess as powerful a serve as Fritz, the Serbian is a master at hitting his spots — and hitting them on the biggest points. In a marquee match that could come down to a few key shots, those pressure moments will likely prove decisive.
This evening semi-final will be played in the day session, with a start time of not before 2 p.m. CET / 8 a.m. ET.