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47th dance belongs to Djokovic

Serbian, back at No. 1 Monday, now 25-22 overall against Swiss Federer

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Novak Djokovic (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Novak Djokovic (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AFP) – Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in a thrilling semi-final at the Paris Masters on Saturday to extend his winning run to 22 matches ahead of his return to world number one next week.

The Serb outlasted Federer in just over three hours to prevail 7-6 (8/6), 5-7, 7-6 (7/3) on their 47th meeting in the ATP Tour.

He will meet Russia’s Karen Khachanov in Sunday’s final as he looks to pull level with Rafael Nadal on 33 career Masters titles.

Djokovic, who will replace an injury-plagued Nadal at the top of the rankings on Monday, now leads Federer 25-22 overall and has not lost to the Swiss since 2015.

“Novak is obviously on a roll. You can feel it. At the end it came down to a few things here and there,’’ said Federer, who returned to play in Paris this week for the first time in three years.

“But overall I’m happy with my game. It’s better than last week in Basel. There I won the tournament and here I played in the semis and it needed somebody of Novak’s calibre to beat me.

“So that’s all right. And I’m looking forward to a rest now and a good preparation for London (ATP Finals).’’

Djokovic will go in search of a fifth Paris trophy after denying Federer a shot at a historic 100th title, although the Wimbledon and US Open champion was pushed all the way by his 37-year-old rival.

Djokovic watched four break points, one of which Federer saved with a magnificent reflex volley, go by as he led 4-3 in the opening set, before saving a set point on his serve in the tie-break.

A Federer backhand drifted wide to hand Djokovic the lead, although two more break points passed the Serb by in the first game of the second set with the Swiss on the ropes.

The missed opportunity proved costly when Federer conjured up just a second break point of the contest at 6-5, converting in style as he gambled on Djokovic going cross-court before batting a winner down the line to force a decider.

Federer fended off two more break points to open the third set as Djokovic hit the deck when his ankle appeared to catch in the surface.

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