Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic shift year-end no. 1 battle to Paris semis


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Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic shift year-end no. 1 battle to Paris semis

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been the players to beat in 2019, sharing all four Major titles and standing far in front of Roger Federer and other rivals on the ATP Race. While the ATP Finals field has been set in Paris, there is still one thrilling race left to be finished, with Nadal and Djokovic chasing the year-end no.

1 position in Paris and London. Ahead of the semi-final duels in Paris, Rafa has a 1280-point lead over Novak in the Race, ready to become world no. 1 again on Monday and seeking more points that would keep him safe in front of the Serb for the .

Never winning the title in Paris, Rafa booked the semi-final spot for the first time since 2013 after a rock-solid 7-6, 6-1 triumph over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an hour and 35 minutes. It was the tenth win for Rafa over Jo-Wilfried in 14 encounters, earning it after dropping only 13 points behind the initial shot and never experiencing troubles in his games.

The pressure was on Tsonga who dealt with it nicely in the opener, setting up a tie break that Rafa won 7-4, stealing both the set and momentum and dominating in set number two to arrange the clash against Denis Shapovalov, seeking the first Paris final since 2007!

The Spaniard hit 25 winners and 11 unforced errors, prevailing in the shortest points up to four strokes and taking 23 out of 35 more extended exchanges to cross the finish line without spending too much time on the court, crucial fact for him at this stage of the year.

Nothing could have separated them in the first 12 games, with both players serving well to reach a tie break where they traded four mini-breaks in the first six points. Rafa placed a forehand winner to move 5-3 up, closing the set in the 11th point following a forehand error from Jo-Wilfried in just under an hour.

The Frenchman sprayed another forehand error in the second game of the second set to suffer the first break, pushing Nadal closer to the finish line and sealing his fate in this encounter after another mistake in the sixth game that gave Nadal a second break.

A service winner in game seven pushed Nadal into the semi-final, staying on the title course and challenging Novak Djokovic through another round ahead of their Saturday's tests. The four-time champion didn't look good during the first couple of days in Paris but the problems with illness were clearly behind Novak now as he toppled Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-1, 6-2 in 58 minutes for the 67th Masters 1000 semi-final and more points on his tally ahead of the clash with Grigor Dimitrov.

Stefanos won two of the previous three matches against Novak but was far from that level today, dropping half of the points behind the initial shot and facing nine break chances. Djokovic grabbed four breaks and did everything right in his games after losing only nine points, never facing troubles and sealing the deal in no time at all to find himself in the last four.

Novak hit 18 winners and ten unforced errors, halting the young Greek on just eight winners and 20 mistakes, delivering fury from his shots in both the quickest and more extended rallies to march towards the finish line in less than an hour.

Hitting the zone right from the start, Novak broke in the second game after a double fault from Stefanos, holding at love in game three with an ace and delivering another break when Tsitsipas netted a forehand to move 4-0 in front.

Serving to stay in the set and avoid a bagel at 0-5, Stefanos grabbed five straight points to overcome a 40-0 deficit and three set points before Novak held at 30 in the seventh game for a 6-1 in 27 minutes. Barely losing a point behind the initial shot in set number two as well, Djokovic grabbed a break in the third game of the second set after a forehand error from Stefanos who fell 4-1 down when Novak placed a return winner in game five.

Serving at 5-2, Djokovic fired three winners to seal the deal in style and move into the next round where he should be a clear favorite against Grigor Dimitrov as well if he keeps this level.