Novak Djokovic of Serbia secured back-to-back ATP titles yesterday by edging past battling Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-2 5-7 7-6 (7-3) in a thrilling Paris Masters final.
The win was the first for Djokovic in the Masters Series this year following four runner-up finishes and it will send him into the season-ending ATP Tour World Finals in London from November 22-29 as the favourite for many.
But it remains to be seen just how much his efforts here this week, and throughout the year, have taken out of him after he completed a tour-leading 94th match of the season.
At 6-2 3-0 up Djokovic appeared to be cruising toward his first Paris Masters title, but a combination of fatigue on his part and bravado from Monfils saw the home favourite claw his way back into the match.
The 22-year-old Serb again looked set for victory when he led 4-1 in the decider but again Monfils battled back to level at 4-4 and the final went all the way to a tie-break.
Djokovic led from the start in that, bagged an early mini-break and held on to clinch the title in two hours and 43 minutes when Monfils double faulted with the Serb 6-3 ahead.
Concern over previous finals
“In the last four (Masters Series) finals I lost so I was thinking about that,” Djokovic said of the comeback by Monfils.
“Especially with Gael getting better and with the support he was getting from the crowd. I had to fight them both. I was getting slower and not returning as well.
“Winning back-to-back titles at this level is a huge achievement for me.”
Exhilarating last set
The final set was a thriller with both players fighting both physical and mental fatigue.
Djokovic twice broke serve and twice Monfils, playing in his first Masters series final, battled back to level the scores, leaving the title to be won and lost in a tie-break in which the Serb’s experience of big finals proved crucial.
It was Djokovic’s fifth ATP title of the year and keeps alive his hopes of overhauling Rafael Nadal for the world No.2 spot in the London finals.
Monfils paid tribute to his coach Roger Rasheed “for making me believe I could reach the final of a Masters tournament.”
“At the start he was just playing too good and there was nothing I could do about it,” he said of the final.
“But then I started to believe I had a chance and I really stuck with it and turned the tide. It’s a pity it ended like that all the same.”