Djokovic to face Shapovalov in Paris final after Nadal withdrawal

Paris (AFP) –


Novak Djokovic beat Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday to set up a Paris Masters final against Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov, as Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament with an abdominal injury.

Top seed Djokovic saw off Dimitrov 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 in the last four before Nadal, his rival for the year-end world number one spot, pulled out, saying he felt the problem in practice before medical tests confirmed a muscle strain.

"Sorry to be in that position, but that happens sometimes, and that's it," said the 33-year-old Nadal, who will usurp Djokovic at the top of the rankings next week.

"It's a super sad moment for me because I have been enjoying a lot during the whole tournament."

The 19-time Grand Slam champion's withdrawal was announced to the crowd just minutes before he was due on court to take on Shapovalov in the semis.

Nadal has never won the Paris Masters title and also pulled out on his last appearance in 2017 before the quarter-finals.

He also admitted that his fitness for the ATP Tour Finals in London, which start on November 10, is in doubt.

"I will do all I can do and all what's possible to recover for it," he said. "But as you can expect, today I can't answer this question."

Djokovic now has the chance to boost his hopes of equalling Pete Sampras' record of finishing six years as the world number one, while the Serbian would also move within one of Nadal on the all-time list with a 34th Masters title if he beats Shapovalov.

- Djokovic battles past Dimitrov -

Djokovic came through a dramatic first-set tie-break before prevailing against Dimitrov without facing a break point in the match.

It will be the 50th Masters final of the 16-time Grand Slam champion's career and his sixth in Paris, having lost to Russian Karen Khachanov in last year's championship match.

"It was a very even match," the 32-year-old said. "He was probably the better player in the tie-break.

"We both really understood the importance of clinching the first set so we could feel a bit more relaxed in the second and start swinging through."

Djokovic has beaten Shapovalov in all three of their previous meetings, dropping only one set -- in the third round of the Australian Open earlier this year.

"Denis, I think he (has) reduced his unforced errors. And his game has always been there, and especially this year he's improved even more," said Djokovic.

"I'm looking forward to the final. I worked hard to get to this position in other finals. I really like playing in this court and in these conditions."

The crucial moments of the match came at the end of the first-set tie-break, as when leading 5-4, Dimitrov fired a simple volley wide after a 32-shot rally, before Djokovic took the set following a gruelling 35-shot exchange.

The world number one broke in the fifth game of the second set and comfortably sealed victory with successive holds to love.

It will be Shapovalov's maiden Masters final after three previous semi-final defeats.

The 20-year-old thrashed Gael Monfils in the quarters on Friday, having also knocked out sixth seed Alexander Zverev in the last 16.