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Clinical Djokovic beats Rublev to seal semi-final spot at ATP Finals

The former world No 1 was in top form as he raced to victory in 68 minutes (6-4, 6-1).

Novak Djokovic ATP Finals match 2 AI/Reuters/Panoramic
Nitto ATP Finals •group-stage • completed
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Former world No 1 Novak Djokovic was at his clinical best as he beat Andrey Rublev 6-4, 6-1 on Wednesday to secure his spot in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals.

The 35-year-old, chasing a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title, took the only break point of the first set, was near-perfect on serve and pulled away for victory.

“I played very, very well, one of the best matches of the year, without a doubt,” he said. “I managed to find the right attitude and right game in that 10th game of the first set.

“That gave me a lot of wings. He went down in his energy in the second set. Just a flawless second set, it was an amazing performance, I would say.”

The result means Djokovic, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in his opening Red Group match, is assured of a top-two spot, the 11th time he’s made at least the semis in his 15 appearances at the season-ending event.

Djokovic untouchable on serve in opening set

The start of the match was dominated by serve as each found things easy going in the fast conditions.

Rublev, who beat Daniil Medvedev in his first match, came in full of confidence but he could not make an impression on the Djokovic serve, the Serb winning 17 points out of 17 on first serve.

And as soon as Djokovic had a chance, in the 10th game of the first set, he took it, rifling a backhand return down the line to snatch the set.

Rattled Rublev can’t handle Djokovic pressure

In recent weeks, Djokovic has taken his foot off the pedal when in charge of matches but against Rublev there was no let-up.

The Russian had 15-30 on the Djokovic serve in the first game but his frustration was already building as he failed to take a half-chance. When he was broken in the second game, it spilled over as he hurled his racquet down to the ground after yielding his serve for the second time.

That gave Djokovic breathing room he hardly needed. A second break followed for 5-1 and he finished things off with another ruthless service game, wrapping things up after just 68 minutes. He finished with 32 points won out of 34 on first serve, much to the delight of his watching family.

“It’s probably the first match that my daughter and son, with my wife, have watched the entire match from first to last minute,” Djokovic said. “We played just over an hour. It’s great to have them there. That’s one of the biggest motivational factors at the top level for me, having them courtside, watching, celebrating – hopefully – with me.”

Rublev will try to book his place in the last four when he plays Tsitsipas in his final group match.

Rublev: “I didn’t even have a chance”

Rublev said he was simply not able to compete with Djokovic in that kind of form.

“I think today the match was only one set because the second I completely burned out,” he said. “There was no even tennis. Everything was clear.

“The first set…the most tough to face against Novak, especially on this surface that we are playing here, is his serve. The way he serve is really high percentage, all the directions, everything really close to the lines.

“I didn’t even had almost chance on the first set to do something. Maybe there was one 30-all, 15-all, but nothing special. So that’s it.”

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