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Djokovic Defeats Del Potro For SF Berth

London, England

Two-time titlist Novak Djokovic clinched a spot in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Thursday with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over 2009 runner-up Juan Martin del Potro in Group B. 

Second seed Djokovic, the 2008 and 2012 champion, booked his spot in the last four as a result of his win and also because six-time former champion Roger Federer beat Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-3 mid-afternoon.

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The Serbian, who has won Group B play, improved his winning streak to 19 matches this year and he is now 2-0 in round robin play at The O2 in London.  He will compete against Richard Gasquet on Saturday.

"I did qualify for the semi-finals, which is definitely positive news," said Djokovic. "But I still want to try to win the last match of the group."

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Djokovic dictated play from the baseline. He continually struck groundstrokes within one foot of the tramlines to keep del Potro on the move. The two-time titlist hit 13 winners and as many unforced errors. But it was his aggressive approach on serve – saving two break points – that reaped dividends. He won 16 of his 20 first service points, losing six service points overall in the 40-minute opener.

Fourth seed Del Potro played closer to the baseline in the second set, cutting down the angles. He, rather fortuitously, broke Djokovic to 30 for a 4-2 lead when a crosscourt backhand hit the net and bounced over. Del Potro capitalised, and, by serving with greater fluency, wrestled the 35-minute set away.  

"I played a poor game at 3 2 [in the] second set," said Djokovic. "He used his chance to come back in the match. All three sets were decided with the breaks of serve at 3 2, same score. Just a little bit of [a] lack of concentration on his side [and] on my side decided this match."

Del Potro was left to rue missing out on two break point opportunities at 1-1. It forced Djokovic to re-focus and re-adjust his strategy, with regularly forays to the net to ensure that del Potro was forced to hit passing strokes. The Argentine’s unforced error count rose to 14 for the set (and 29 overall).

"I saved two break points at the start of the third set," said Djokovic. "I had opportunities in that game at 3-2, used it. I just tried to make him play. I served very well towards the end of the match.

"He has one of the biggest serves in the sport. He has one of the most aggressive forehands. I just needed to stay tough."

Djokovic completed his 69th match win of the season with a hold to love, finishing with a backhand winner – his 34th of the pair’s 14th FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Djokovic 11-4).  The match lasted one hour and 54 minutes.

Del Potro, a winner of four ATP World Tour 500 tournament titles this year, dropped to a 51-15 match record this season. 

Del Potro plays Federer on Saturday.

“Now I will have to play better against Roger,” said del Potro. “It's going to be a decision match for both. I will try to do my best.”

The winner will advance to the semi-finals.

When asked to predict the winner, Djokovic said, "It's difficult to say really because all the matches that they played against each other this year, lately, have gone the distance.

"Roger is definitely playing better than he was throughout the whole year. He loves these conditions. He likes this court. Today, he had a great performance against Gasquet. But on the other hand, del Potro has a big serve. I expect a three-set battle. I can't pick the winner."

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© Ron Turenne/Tennis Canada

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