Recently dethroned Novak Djokovic followed Andy Murray into the final of the ATP World Tour Finals to set up an epic clash to decide the holder of the World No.1 for the year end. Djokovic defeated Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1 on Saturday after Murray won a thrilling three-setter against Milos Raonic.
Djokovic, a five-time champion at the event, will look to regain the World No.1 place that he lost Murray at the Paris Masters for a third straight year as the No. 1. Murray, meanwhile, will look to quell the challenge and retain the crown that he won just two weeks ago after years of being the bridesmaid. The year-ender event, which normally pales in comparison to the Slams, has suddenly acquired the looks of a titanic battle of immense import as the No. 1 has never been decided at the season finale so far.
Djokovic blew away a hapless Nishikori in just over an hour in the semifinal allowing just one consolation point each in the two sets. The Serbian was in
"The best performance of the tournament came really at the right time," said Djokovic.
"Everything kind of clicked together tonight. I felt really well. I started with a great pace, great concentration, dictating the play, mixing up the pace. Everything was going well. I am very pleased.
"Kei was not close to his best. The fact that he played late last night, it's been a long year for him and a long tournament, so he was probably a little bit tired. Nevertheless, I tried to make myself present
Earlier, Andy Murray beat Milos Raonic in a thrilling semi-final to also reach the final. The 29-year old, however, came through in contrasting fashion to Djokovic as he went through a grueling 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (11-9) that lasted three hours and 38 minutes.
Murray has now extended his winning streak to a career-best 23 matches, stretching back to September. However, the marathon win coming on the back of another earlier grueling match could well put the Scot at a disadvantage when facing the tireless Novak Djokovic on Sunday.
"I didn't expect to play a long one with someone with a serve like Milos," said Murray.
"I'm tired. I've played so much tennis over the last few months. I'll give it my best effort - the best of what I have."
Murray see-sawed through the match, gripped by his usual self-loathing and growling and prowling the baseline. The Scot was at one stage just two points from defeat in the second set
"It was an amazing atmosphere," added Murray.
"The longer the match went on, the louder the crowd got. This is what we play for. Matches like this and arenas like this. This is one of hardest matches I've played indoors."
Murray at one stage bloodied his knuckled from an angry punch to his racquet
Djokovic holds a 24-10 advantage against the World No. 1 and has won three of their four meetings this year, in the finals of the Australian Open, Roland Garros and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Madrid.