Novak Djokovic put in a gutsy performance as he dug deep to beat America’s Taylor Fritz in straight sets 7-6(5) 7-6(6) and reach the final of the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals.
Djokovic had to overcome a tiebreak in each of the sets to get past his opponent in a match where neither player gave an inch.
The Serbian star will now face the winner of the late game between Norway’s Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev of Russia.
Djokovic is on the hunt for a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title, but faced another physical test against Fritz, less than 24 hours after overcoming Daniil Medvedev in a gruelling round-robin match that lasted more than three hours.
The seventh seed’s victory in that clash continued his 100 per cent record in Turin, but he was filmed shaking with exertion and admitted afterwards: “I’m not the freshest guy right now”.
Djokovic’s victory took his head-to-head record against Fritz to 6-0 in their first meeting since the Paris Masters quarter-finals of 2021.
Fritz has impressed in Turin this week, beating both Rafael Nadal and Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach the knockouts, but he was edged out in a hard-fought battle.
Both players have been rock-solid on serve this week and break opportunities were predictably few and far between in the opening set.
However, the pair were clinical when their chances came. Djokovic was first to pounce, setting up three break points and taking the first with a thumping forehand to go 3-2 up.
But Fritz responded immediately, breaking back in the following game when the Serbian pushed a makeable cross-court backhand wide on break point.
That was as good as it got in terms of set-changing openings, as both players continued to hold serve to set up a tiebreak.
Djokovic turned on the style when it mattered most, coming back from 5-4 down to win three points in a row and take the opener, finishing with a flourish by firing a forehand winner into the corner on Fritz’s serve.
The American was left frustrated after hitting more aces (7 to 4) and winners (14 to 8) than Djokovic in a set lasting just under an hour.
But he got off to a superb start in the second set, breaking Djokovic in the opening game. Fritz set up two break points with a lovely cross-court backhand and took the first as a Djokovic backhand flew wide.
Djokovic sniffed a chance when 4-3 down to break back after going 30-0 up, but Fritz responded superbly with two winners, an outstanding drop shot and a smash to take an important hold.
In the following game it was Fritz’s chance to spot an opening after taking the first two points, but Djokovic also responded well to take a hold in deuce and force his opponent to serve for the set.
The former world No.1 edged a 26-shot rally to put the pressure on Fritz at 30-30, and the American then made a stunning error by firing a simple backhand into the net when the point looked won.
That gave Djokovic his first break point chance, and he took it as Fritz’s backhand drifted long, continuing the pattern of there being no break points saved in the entire match by either player.
A hold to 15 was just what the doctor ordered for the Serbian, and Fritz also managed to hold to set up another tiebreak.
Djokovic quickly got a mini-break as Fritz went long, but a fantastic backhand winner down the line from the world No.9 soon restored parity.
Fritz landed his 15th ace of the match to go 4-3 up, but Djokovic stayed strong on serve before Fritz won the point of the match with an overhead smash to conclude a thrilling rally and take the score to 5-5.
However, his celebrations didn’t last long as Djokovic came to the net to volley a winner, earning a mini-break and giving him the chance to serve at match point.
He let the opportunity slip, though, with a tame long backhand, but a serve-and-volley then set up a second match point on Fritz’s serve.
This time Djokovic didn’t let the chance pass him by as Fritz fired a forehand wide to hand the Serbian victory.