Djokovic Powers Into Tokyo Final
Ten players who have held the No. 1 ATP Ranking have triumphed at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships. And on Sunday, Novak Djokovic will have an opportunity to become the 11th.
Djokovic defeated 2017 Tokyo champion David Goffin 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 29 minutes on Saturday to reach the final of this ATP 500 event, marking his fifth tour-level championship match of the season. The Serbian is competing in the Japanese capital for the first time, and he is trying to capture a 10th title on a tournament main draw debut, with the last instance coming in Eastbourne two years ago.
It has been a clean run through the draw for Djokovic, who has not dropped a set through four matches. None of Djokovic’s eight sets have gone to a tie-break, and he has been broken just twice in the tournament, losing an average of 3.5 games per set.
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Djokovic’s first set against Goffin lasted 46 minutes, just four minutes short of the length of his quarter-final victory against Lucas Pouille. But the Serbian appeared in control throughout, saving the four break points he faced to improve his FedEx ATP Head2Head series advantage over Goffin to 7-1.
For the second consecutive match against a seeded opponent, the 75-time tour-level titlist got off to a quick start. Djokovic broke Goffin in his first return game and he never relinquished that lead. And he wasted no time in the second set, either, playing unfathomable defence near the back wall before sprinting forward to slide an angled winner past Goffin off of a drop shot, earning a break to start the second set.
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Goffin said before the match that a key for him would be to serve as well as he has throughout the week, earning as many free points as he can. But it was Djokovic who yielded better results off his first delivery, winning 87 per cent (34/39) of his first-serve points.
Djokovic will face Aussie John Millman — who will compete in his maiden ATP 500 final — for the trophy. It’s not the first time they have faced one another on a big stage, with the Serbian triumphing last year in the US Open quarter-finals. Djokovic leads Millman 2-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
Goffin, who reached the Cincinnati final less than two months ago, is making a push in the ATP Race To London to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, leaving Tokyo in ninth place. In 2017, he reached the championship match at The O2.
The Belgian falls to 12-2 in the Japanese capital, where he has advanced to at least the semi-finals in each of his three appearances.
Did You Know?
Djokovic is now tied with Roger Federer for the most tour-level wins this season with 45. Daniil Medvedev, the 2018 Tokyo champion, leads the ATP Tour with 54 victories.