Federer reveals season was affected by hand injury

Roger Federer has admitted that he has been struggling with a hand injury for quite some time.

Federer, whose season ended in defeat against eventual champion Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals this past weekend, has since revealed that he has been secretly coping with an injury to his hand which affected his performances during the latter part of the season.

“I do not always want to speak on the hand,” he said.

“That should not be an excuse. But I had these problems with my hand, and that sure broke my rhythm sometimes.

“I felt the hand for a long time, even here in London still a bit.

“Even though it has been getting better and better, I could quickly count on my forehand again.

“I hope that the complaints are finally gone after the holidays.”

Federer is hopeful that having the holiday season off will allow the hand to recover and leave him fit as a fiddle for the start of the Australian Open in January.

Djokovic: Zverev can be the next big thing

Novak Djokovic says Alexander Zverev has the ability to surpass his own achievements in the game, after the young German defeated him to win the ATP Finals title on Sunday.

Zverev secured a surprisingly convincing 6-4, 6-3 victory over World No 1 Djokovic in Sunday's final, having also beaten Roger Federer in straight sets in the semi-final.

The 21-year-old became the youngest winner of the ATP World Tour's season finale since Djokovic achieved the feat in 2008, and the significance of the achievement is not lost on the top-ranked Serb.

"There's a lot of similarities in terms of trajectory of professional tennis, in our careers," 14-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic said.

"Hopefully he can surpass me. I sincerely wish him that. He seems like someone that is very dedicated. Without a doubt, he's a really nice person, someone that gets along very well with everyone.

"He deserves everything he gets so far. There's a lot of time ahead of him. I wish him to stay healthy and obviously win a lot of titles."

Asked if Zverev's performance meant he was likely to go on and win a Grand Slam, Djokovic said: "We knew that before already, so it doesn't make any difference tonight.

"Of course, he won a huge tournament, but he always had quality to win a Slam.

"There's no doubt he will be one of the favourites at every Slam."

Reflecting on his own incredible season, which saw him return to the top of the world rankings after victories at Wimbledon and the US Open, Djokovic said he had to be extremely happy with his own performances, despite not quite closing the deal in London.

"Health-wise I haven't been really perfect in the last three, four weeks. That took a lot out of me," Djokovic added.

"But at the same time I played finals of [Paris Masters] and here. I have to be happy with that result. Of course, finishing the year as No 1, that was the goal coming into the indoor season. I managed to achieve that.

"Overall it was a phenomenal season that I have to be definitely very proud of."

Zverev: I can't believe I beat Federer and Djokovic

Alexander Zverev is trying to come to terms with not only winning the ATP Finals, but beating both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the process.

The 21-year-old German faced the unenviable task of having to contend with Federer in the semi-finals and Djokovic in the final, but he dealt with the challenge superbly, winning both matches in straight sets to become the youngest winner of the ATP World Tour's season finale since Djokovic achieved the feat in 2008.

He’s also the first player to beat the top two seeds in the semis and final of the event since Andre Agassi in 1990.

Asked to sum up his emotions after his victory on Sunday, Zverev struggled to find words big enough.

"I really can't describe it. It is the biggest title I have ever won," he said.

"This trophy means a lot, everything, to all the players. I mean, you only have so many chances of winning it. You play against the best players only.

"How I played today, how I won it, for me it's just amazing. Beating two such players back-to-back, Roger and Novak, in the semifinals and finals. It means so much.

“I’m incredibly happy and incredibly proud of this moment right now.”

Zverev also paid tribute to the impact his coach Ivan Lendl had on his game, and also the influence of his father, who has been with him every step of the way on his tennis journey.

“He [Lendl] obviously analyzed the match that I played with him a few days ago, told me a few things I had to do different,” he said.

“I was more aggressive today. I tried to take the ball earlier. Those kind of things.

“But my dad is the one that gave me the base. My dad is the one that taught me the game of tennis.

“I’m very thankful to him for that.

“Obviously Ivan, the experience he has on and off the court, is amazing.

“That helped me, as well, to kind of play the two matches that I played back-to-back now.”

Djokovic dispatches Anderson to set up Zverev final

Novak Djokovic will face Alexander Zverev for the ATP Finals title on Sunday after making light work of Kevin Anderson in the semi-finals.

It was a repeat of this year's Wimbledon final, and the result was the same too, with Djokovic once again wrapping up a pretty comfortable straight sets win - 6-2, 6-2 - to book his place in Sunday's final at the O2 Arena.

Djokovic entered the match against Anderson having won seven of their eight previous contests, with Anderson's only victory coming back in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The South African hasn't been able to find a chink in Djokovic's armour since, and it was a similar story on Saturday.

Anderson was also his own worse enemy at times, committing far too many unforced errors - more than double Djokovic's number - to put himself on the back foot.

Anderson lost his serve in the very first game of the match, and found himself under pressure again a few games later.

He was able to save a couple more break points but was in trouble again in the seventh game, offering up another break point which Djokovic duly accepted.

The Serbian wrapped up the first set with little fuss shortly after, and the writing was on the wall when he broke Anderson again at the top of the second set.

Djokovic would go on claim a second break four games later before serving out to love to seal an emphatic victory and set up a final with pretender to the throne Zverev, who reached the final earlier on Saturday by defeating Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6 (7/5).

Zverev knocks out Federer at ATP Finals

Alexander Zverev is through to the final of the season-ending ATP Finals in London after beating Roger Federer in straight sets.
In a close encounter that came down to a few crucial moments, Zverev prevailed 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) in one hour and 37 minutes to advance to his first ever final at the 02 Arena.
The World No 5 fired seven aces and 19 winners while committing just 16 unforced errors. 
There was little to choose between the two players in the first set, which stayed on serve until the 12th game, when Zverev cranked up the heat to break Federer to love and snatch the set, the highlight of the points a smashing forehand winner down the line.
Federer had looked more or less in control up to that point, but Zverev appeared to find another level seemingly from nowhere to stun his opponent - and the 02 crowd.
It needed a quick response from Federer in the second set and the World No 3 appeared to find it in the third game, earning three break points of his own and converting the third with a backhand up the line.
But the Swiss great's advantage was short lived. Zverev hit straight back in the next game, winning an epic rally at 15-40 to get back on level terms.
It was high quality tennis from there but the two players couldn't be separated for the remainder of the set, and it was left to a tie-break to decide matters.
It all came down to who would blink first, and unfortunately for Federer fans, he was the one to dump a volley into the net and hand Zverev two match points.
Federer saved the first on his own serve, but Zverev still had a second on his, and the German made no mistake, smashing a crosscourt volley winner to seal the deal and complete a famous victory.
There was a moment of controversy during the tie-break when Zverev demanded a point be replayed after a ball boy dropped a ball on the court. The crowd booed him immediately afterwards, but Zverev was well within his rights to demand the replay and was quick to apologise after match point.
Zverev moves on to face the winner of the second semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson.

Djokovic and Zverev through to ATP Finals semis

The semi-finals of the season-ending ATP Finals in London were decided on Friday with the conclusion of Group Gustavo Kuerten's round robin matches.

Roger Federer and Kevin Anderson advanced to the semis after Group Lleyton Hewitt wrapped up on Thursday, and joining them in the last four after both winning their final round robin matches on Friday are Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev.

Federer will play Group A runner-up Zverev, while Djokovic takes on Group B runner-up Anderson.

Zverev secured his spot in the semis on Friday afternoon with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 victory over John Isner.

Isner still had an outside chance of making the semis despite two earlier defeats if he could get past Zverev, but it wasn't to be - despite the match being a very close contest.

Zverev was able to edge a tight first set that passed without any breaks by narrowly edging the ensuing tie-break, and the German then clinched the second set courtesy of a solitary break of serve in the eighth game.

Zverev and Isner matched each other in the winner's column, but the German only committed half as many unforced errors as his opponent, while firing nearly twice as many aces and enjoying a superior first-serve percentage.

Zverev's victory meant the final round robin match between Djokovic and Marin Cilic was of only academic interest, with Cilic already out of the tournament and Djokovic already assured of top spot in the group.

To Cilic's credit, however, he still gave it everything he had, and might consider himself a bit unlucky not to have taken the first set against the dominant Serbian World No 1.

Cilic matched Djokovic shot for shot through the first 12 games and earned the first set point of the tie-break, only for Djokovic to save it and turn the tables a few points later to take the set himself.

With the first set under his belt, Djokovic took control of the contest in the second, and soon wrapped up a 7-6 (9/7), 6-2 victory to make it three wins from three and maintain his momentum heading into Saturday's semi-finals.

Zverev slams 'ridiculous' tennis season after Djokovic loss

Alexander Zverev took the opportunity to voice his complaints about the length of the tennis season after going down to Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals on Wednesday.

Zverev was beaten 6-4, 6-1 by the World No 1 but feels he would have been more competitive if it wasn't for the fact that the tennis season is only ending now, 11 months after it began.

The German says the punishing non-stop schedule has left him feeling burned out, and has prevented him from playing his best tennis for the last two months.

"The issue is that our season is way too long," Zverev said.

"That's the issue. But I've said it before. We play for 11 months a year. That's ridiculous. No other professional sport does that.

"I haven't felt my best in, like, two months, to be honest.

"But maybe he was a little bit sick or something like that.

"But he still played like he felt at his absolute best. That's kind of all that matters."

Zverev looked competitive enough in the first set, but Djokovic gradually gained the upper hand, and Zverev's head seemed to drop after he got broken in the second set.

Still, the 21-year-old is adamant that he doesn't fear playing the best players.

"I go out to a match, I don't think I will lose," Zverev added.

"That's not how I think. I'm going out there to play and to compete.

"Obviously he's No 1 in the world, I'm not. But I still go out on court as equals.

"I still think that I have chances. Next time I play him, I still think the same way.

"It doesn't mean I always have to win, but I take every opponent as an equal."

Federer denies getting special treatment after Benneteau dig

Roger Federer got a little annoyed after being asked about recent comments claiming he gets special treatment from tennis tournaments due to his status in the game.

Speaking to reporters after his 6-2, 6-3 victory over Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, the Swiss great was asked about recent comments made by fellow player Julien Benneteau in an interview with France's RMC Sport.

The Frenchman said that Federer often is given the choice of playing when he wants, whether it be evening or day sessions, or even choosing which days of the week to play.

Benneteau pointed to the last two Australian Opens, where Federer was able to avoid the sweltering Melbourne heat by playing evening sessions, as an example of the kind of preferential treatment he receives.

But the 20-time Grand Slam champ wasn't really in the mood to discuss the topic with reporters, saying he sometimes gets a choice and other times not, and he didn't see it as a major issue.

"I get asked, 'Would you like to play Monday or Tuesday?' sometimes. Sometimes, I get asked, 'Do you want to play day or night?'. Sometimes, they go ask my agent," said Federer.

"Sometimes, they ask me, 'Asia wants you to play at night'. Sometimes, we have our say. But I asked to play on Monday at the US Open and I played on Tuesday night.

"It's all good, you know. I've had that problem for 20 years in the good way. Sometimes, I get help, sometimes, I don't.

"A lot of the facts are not right.

"I don't really feel that I am in the mood during a World Tour Finals to discuss that topic, to be honest.

"The radio interview that happened over a week ago... Julien is a nice guy, I know him since the junior times, all of this has been totally taken out of context."

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has also come to Federer's defence, saying the choice of when Federer plays often comes down to what's best for spectators, not for the player himself.

"It needs to be said that Roger Federer is a player widely regarded as one of the biggest 'box office' athletes in the world," Tiley said.

"He has been regularly voted Australia's favourite athlete. The fans demand his appearance in the big stadiums and our broadcasters naturally want his matches to air in prime time.

"And I don't think there's a tournament director in the world who is not going to take those factors into account when setting the schedule.

"This is the case with all the big names in tennis, and in sport in general."

Nadal set to return from injury in Abu Dhabi

World No 2 Rafa Nadal has confirmed he will make his return from injury at next month's Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion joins a star-studded field that includes World No 1 Novak Djokovic, Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem and Venus Williams for the December 27-29 exhibition event.

But it is the news that Nadal will return to action before the new year is out that will really get his fans buzzing.

The Spaniard was forced to pull out of the Paris Masters and the ATP World Tour Finals in London because of an abdominal injury, and later confirmed he would be using the time off to undergo ankle surgery.

But it seems his recovery has gone according to plan and he will be back in action in time for the Australian Open in January.

Nadal is a regular fixture in Abu Dhabi, and has won it four times.

“Abu Dhabi is one of my favourite places to play, the climate, atmosphere and enthusiasm from the crowds at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship provides the perfect start to the new season," he said.

"The tournament brings together players at the top of their game; we all relish playing in these extremely competitive matches.”

John Lickrish, chief executive of Flash Entertainment, the event organisers, said: “We’re putting together an exciting line-up – one that reiterates the growing prominence of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on the global tennis calendar. Nadal’s return, alongside the newly crowned No 1 Novak Djokovic, plus returning champ Kevin Anderson, underlines the importance top players place on the event. Welcoming Venus Williams for her debut in Abu Dhabi adds additional star power; we’re truly excited at the calibre of participants this year.”

Federer left bemused by umpire after Nishikori defeat

The normally even-tempered Roger Federer was feeling a little bit aggrieved after receiving a code violation during his defeat to Kei Nishikori at the ATP Finals on Sunday.

Federer's quest for a seventh ATP Finals crown and 100th ATP title got off to a less than stellar start, as an error-strewn performance from the Swiss great resulted in a 7-6 (7/4) 6-3 victory for Nishikori.

To make matters worse, Federer was also handed a warning by Steiner for hitting a ball into the crowd.

Early in the second set, Federer was angered by a challenge, and made his feelings known.

When asked if he was unhappy with the umpire, Federer said: I was, just because I thought what was his argument, why the warning?

"But nothing more than that. He thought I was angry. I wasn't. Now I'm angry because I lost, but I wasn't, so... "He knows me very well apparently, or he thought so."

Federer's form has been pretty good heading into the ATP Finals, having made it all the way to the final in Paris where he lost to World No 1 Novak Djokovic, but there have also been a few disappointing results mixed in.

Still, he was at a loss to explain his poor performance against Nishikori.

"I've been feeling fine," he said. "It's just that practice has been a bit all over the place. Practised in Queen's, practised on the outside courts here, then centre as well.

"So it's not always exactly the same conditions. Overall I thought I'm hitting the ball okay. The warm-up was totally fine."

Federer was left to lament giving away the early break he'd earned in the second set almost immediately, and he identified that as the turning point in the match.

"Unfortunately I couldn't keep the lead that I got early. That was important at the end," he said.

"That was the key of the match. That 10-minute swing at the end of the first throughout maybe one-all in the second."

Nishikori stuns Federer at ATP Finals

Roger Federer suffered a surprise defeat in his opening group match of the ATP Finals in London, going down in straight sets to Japan's Kei Nishikori.

The two players last met in the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters just a few weeks ago, with Federer clinching the straight sets win on that occasion.

Indeed, the Swiss ace was leading their head-to-head 7-2 heading into Sunday night's match at the O2 Arena, but that counted for little as Nishikori emerged a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 winner.

The first set was a tight affair, with neither player getting a sniff of break point throughout. Federer was making more unforced errors than usual, but it didn't get him into any real trouble.

That was until the tie-breaker, when he miscued a trio of forehands to hand Nishikori a 6-1 lead. Federer managed to save three set points, but Nishikori wouldn't be denied the fourth time around, as he edged the opener in 51 minutes.

A nervy service game from Kei first up handed Federer three break points at the start of the second set, and he didn't need a second invitation to grab one.

But Federer couldn't consolidate the break, handing it straight back to Nishikori in the very next game after several more unforced errors.

A few games later, Nishikori had another break and a 4-2 lead, as Federer continued to look out of sorts.

With Federer unable to mount an effective fightback from there, Nishikori held on to complete the surprise upset victory after just one hour and 27 minutes.

Federer now has plenty of work to do in Group Lleyton Hewitt if he's to fight back from this opening defeat and remain in the hunt for a seventh ATP Final crown and 100th ATP title.

Czech Republic continue Fed Cup dominance

The Czech Republic won their sixth Fed Cup title in eight years with two matches to spare after Katerina Siniakova defeated the USA's Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Siniakova's 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 victory over Kenin in the first reverse singles match gave the Czechs an insurmountable 3-0 lead over defending champions United States in the best-of-five final.

Kenin looked like she might prolong the contest after earning two match points while serving at 5-4 in the third set, but Siniakova rallied superbly, saving both points before claiming successive breaks to clinch victory.

"It was an unbelievable match for me," Siniakova said. "It was up and down, with nerves. I'm extremely happy that I won. I thank all who came for their support. It was felt."

Reflecting on the two match points she faced, Siniakova added: "It was horrible, the worst (moment). But it's not the end until the final match point is converted."

The Czechs had put themselves in prime position by winning both of Saturday's singles matches. Barbora Strycova rallied for a 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kenin and Siniakova doubled their advantage with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Alison Riske.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was part of the Czech team this weekend and was ready to take to the court if her services were required, but the champions were able to prevail without her.

Anderson beats Thiem in ATP Finals opener

The season-ending ATP finals got under way at the O2 Arena in London on Sunday with a victory for Kevin Anderson over Dominic Thiem in his tournament debut.

In the first match of Group Lleyton Hewitt, big-serving Anderson had too much firepower for clay-court specialist Thiem, wrapping up a 6-3, 7-6 (12/10) victory after one hour and 49 minutes.

The South African World No 6 didn't face a single break point throughout the match, firing 13 aces and winning 91% of his first serves to effectively neutralise the threat of World No 8 Thiem.

Anderson claimed the decisive break early in the first set for a 3-1 lead and continued to pile on the pressure in games six and eight, forcing Thiem to save five more break points to avoid going further behind.

With the Austrian unable to create any break point opportunities of his own, Anderson soon wrapped up the first set with a minimum of fuss.

Thiem proved more competitive in the second set, tightening up his own service games to prevent Anderson from gaining any more break point opportunities, but he still wasn't able to trouble Anderson on his own serve.

It was left to a tie-break to decide the contest, where both men wasted several chances to wrap up the set.

Thiem saw two set points go begging, but Anderson was also unable to convert his first three match points, as the tie-break continued to ebb and flow.

Finally Anderson was handed a fourth match point on his own serve after a forehand winner down the line, and this time he made no mistake, clinching the tie break by a 12-10 scoreline to wrap up the victory and make the perfect start to his ATP Finals campaign.

The second match of Group Lleyton Hewitt takes place this evening, with Roger Federer starting his bid for a seventh ATP Finals crown against Kei Nishikori.

Federer names his favourite win over long-time rival Nadal

Roger Federer has had quite a few epic victories over Rafael Nadal over the course of his career, but there's one in particular that really sticks out in his mind.

The Swiss great has pointed to the 2007 Wimbledon final as the greatest win he ever managed to pull off over his long-time rival.

Federer prevailed 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 to claim his fifth straight Wimbledon crown.

Federer also named some two other victories he considers to be among the greatest of his career: his 2009 French Open triumph, and his victory over Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final of the same year.

The latter win saw him leapfrog Pete Sampras at the top of the Grand Slam charts.

“The 2009 French Open final is definitely one of them, but for some reasons, I had to add the 2007 Wimbledon finals as well when I won my fifth consecutive title and 2009 final against Andy Roddick, which marked my Grand Slam titles record," Federer said when asked about his greatest victories.

“These last two matches have something incredible.

“Borg and Sampras were sitting just there and all my idols were there.

“There was a tense atmosphere because of the Grand Slam titles record.

“In the end, managing to get a good end like in the Cenerentola fairytale was fantastic.”

Federer to face Nishikori on opening day of ATP Finals

World No 3 Roger Federer will take on No 9 Kei Nishikori on the opening day of the ATP Finals, after the draw was finalised in London on Monday night.

The tournament gets under way on Sunday, with Federer and Nishikori squaring off in the first evening session after being drawn together in the Lleyton Hewitt group.

The two players also faced each other in the Paris Masters quarter-finals last week, with Federer coming out on top on that occasion. He leads their head-to-head 7-2.

Two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson will face French Open finalist Dominic Thiem on Sunday afternoon in the other Group Lleyton Hewitt match.

Group Guga Kuerten, meanwhile, consists of Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and John Isner - a late replacement for the injured Rafa Nadal.

They will begin their campaigns on Monday.

The ATP Finals feature the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the ATP rankings in a round-robin format, with players and teams split into two groups of four. The top two in each group progress to the knockout semifinals.

Singles - Group Guga Kuerten

(1) Novak Djokovic (SRB)
(3) Alexander Zverev (GER)
(5) Marin Cilic (CRO)
(8) John Isner (USA)

Singles - Group Lleyton Hewitt

(2) Roger Federer (SUI)
(4) Kevin Anderson (RSA)
(6) Dominic Thiem (AUT)
(7) Kei Nishikori (JPN)

Doubles - Group Knowles/Nestor

(1) Oliver Marach (AUT)/Mate Pavic (CRO)
(3) Lukasz Kubot (POL)/Marcelo Melo (BRA)
(5) Mike Bryan (USA)/Jack Sock (USA)
(8) Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA)/Nicolas Mahut (FRA)

Doubles - Group Llodra/Santoro

(2) Juan Sebastian Cabal (COL)/Robert Farah (COL)
(4) Jamie Murray (GBR)/Bruno Soares (BRA)
(6) Raven Klaasen (RSA)/Michael Venus (NZL)
(7) Nikola Mektic (CRO)/Alexander Peya (AUT)

Nadal set to have surgery and miss ATP finals

Rafa Nadal has confirmed he will not take part in the season-ending ATP Finals and will undergo surgery on his ankle.

The Spaniard withdrew from last month's Paris Masters with an abdominal muscle injury and said the decision was made to undergo surgery on his troublesome ankle now while the other injury keeps him on the sidelines.

American John Isner will take Nadal's place at the ATP Finals in London, which starts on Sunday.

In a post on social media, 17-time Grand Slam champion Nadal wrote: "It has been a complicated year, very good at the tennis level when I was able to play, and at the same time very bad as far as injuries are concerned.

"Unfortunately, I had the abdominal problem in Paris last week and, in addition, I have a free body in the ankle joint that has to be removed in the operating room today.

"It is true that we had detected it for a long time and from time to time it bothered me. However, since the problem in the abdominal muscle also prevents me from playing in London, we take advantage of the moment to remove the free body and avoid future problems.

"This way I hope to be in full condition for the next season."

Nada's withdrawal in London means that Novak Djokovic will end the season as the World No 1 for the fifth time in his career, putting him level with Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors, and one behind Pete Sampras.

Federer: Serena 'went too far' in US Open final

Roger Federer has admitted that he feels Serena Williams "went too far" in her outburst at the umpire during September's US Open final.

Williams' match against Naomi Osaka was engulfed in controversy after Williams lost her cool following a series of umpiring decisions that went against her.

The American received a code violation for coaching, followed by a penalty point for racquet abuse and finally a game penalty for calling the umpire a "liar" and a "thief".

Federer said he thought Williams should have handled things differently.

"I feel like Serena should have walked away," he told the Sunday Times.

"She did, but she went too far. She should have walked earlier."

Federer didn't lay all the blame at Williams' feet, however, and said her actions were at least "a little bit excusable".

"The umpire maybe should not have pushed her there. It's unfortunate, but an incredible case study," he said.

Federer also addressed Williams' French Open catsuit controversy, and in that case he is totally on her side.

It was announced in September that Williams would be banned from wearing a black catsuit at future French Opens after she decided to wear one at Roland Garros earlier this year.

At the US Open, meanwhile, France's Alize Cornet was given a code violation for changing her shirt on court.

"What was the problem with taking the shirt off or the catsuit?" said Federer.

"Serena has worn crazier stuff in the past. Guys have worn crazier stuff. For me it was all a bit of nonsense.

"I was totally on the women's side. Leave them alone."

Djokovic defeats Federer in epic Paris Masters semi-final

Novak Djokovic narrowly defeated Roger Federer in a thrilling three-hour clash in the Paris Masters semi-finals on Saturday night.

Federer was chasing his 100th ATP title in the French capital, but couldn't quite get past a determined Djokovic on the night.

The first set, like the entire match, was a tight affair, although Djokovic seemed to be applying most of the pressure.

Federer faced a break point in his opening service game but saved it, and the Swiss great had to dig deep again in the eighth game, a marathon affair that went to deuce seven times and saw Djokovic earn four break points - all to no avail as Federer proved equal to them all.

It all came down to a tie-break, where it was Djokovic who managed to convert the crucial mini-break point that handed him the first set.

The top-ranked Serb looked to tighten the screws early in the second set and deliver a killing blow, but Federer was again able to save two break points and hold his opening service game.

The set stayed on serve throughout with neither player giving an inch until the 12th game, when it was Federer's turn to earn a crucial opening - two break and set points with Djokovic staring down the barrel at 15-40.

As it turned out, Federer only needed one to take the set 7-5 and level the scores.

The match was clearly living up to its potential, and it all came down to a deciding third set that was every bit as close as the two preceding it.

Once again, the two players could not be separated after 12 tight games and it was left to another tie-break to decide the match.

An unforced error from Federer handed Djokovic the first mini-break and that was followed by a double-fault from Federer - only his second of the match - to give Djokovic a 4-1 lead.

Djokovic won both his service points with ease to make it 6-1 and earn five match points, and there was no way back for Federer from there.

The Serb finally wrapped up a 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 7-6 (7-3) victory after Federer smashed a backhand into the net, bringing to an end another epic clash between these two greats of the game after three gruelling hours of competition.

Djokovic, who will return to the World No 1 spot on Monday regardless of the result, moves on to the final where he will face rising Russian star Karen Khachanov.

Already a two-time winner on the ATP Tour this year, the 22-year-old Khachanov reached his first ever Masters tournament final with an emphatic 6-4, 6-1 victory over sixth seed Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic and Federer to square off in Paris Masters semi-finals

Fans at the AccorHotels Arena are in for a treat on Saturday when superstars Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer do battle in the semi-finals of the Paris Masters.

Djokovic was the first man to book his place in the last four on Friday after coming from a set down to defeat Marin Cilic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

A potential upset looked to be on the cards when Cilic surprised everyone by taking the first set off the in-form Serb, but Djokovic didn't enter the match on the back of 20 consecutive victories for nothing.

The new World No 1 shrugged off the break point he surrendered to hand Cilic the first set and hit back strongly in the second, breaking in the fourth and eighth games to level the scores at a set apiece.

To his credit, Cilic kept fighting, and he looked to have swung the momentum back his way when he broke Djokovic again early in the decider for a 2-1 lead.

But once again Djokovic was able to respond, breaking back immediately to get back on level terms, before another break several games later gave him a 5-3 lead and the opportunity to serve out the match, which he did without dropping another point.

Federer, meanwhile, came through a pretty tight contest against Japanese star Kei Nishikori, wrapping up a 6-4, 6-4 victory thanks to a break of serve late in the first set and another early in the second.

That double blow effecively put Nishikori on the back foot, after he'd managed to look very competitive up until that point.

Federer now faces the tough task of trying to break Djokovic's impressive winning streak when the two clash in the French capital on Saturday.

The second semi-final sees unseeded Russian Karen Khachanov take on sixth Dominic Thiem of Austria.

Khachanov scored a surprise blowout victory over fourth seed Alexander Zverev, wrapping up a 6-1, 6-2 win in just 68 minutes, while Thiem defeated American Jack Sock 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Djokovic hails 'phenomenal' return to No 1

Novak Djokovic has described his return to the World No 1 ranking as a "phenomenal achievement" after advancing to the Paris Masters quarter-finals on Thursday.

Rafa Nadal's withdrawal in the French capital earlier this week means that Djokovic will return to the summit of the world rankings on Monday for the first time following a two-year absence.

During that time, the Serb faced serious questions over his future in the game, as a run of poor form saw his world ranking plummet to 22.

But Djokovic was able to rediscover his touch in 2018, and his victory at Wimbledon earlier this year proved to be the start of a sustained period of resurgence that also saw him win the US Open and Cincinnati Masters.

"Reflecting on what I've been through in the last year, it's quite a phenomenal achievement," said Djokovic.

"I'm very, very happy and proud about it. Five months ago, it was highly improbable considering my ranking and the way I played and felt on the court.

"I'll probably be able to speak more profoundly about it when the season is done and hopefully if I get to finish as No 1."

Despite his return to top spot, Djokovic is mindful that there is still more tennis to be played before the season is over.

"It's not the end of the season. Rafa obviously is struggling with injuries since the US Open. But the race is still there.

"Roger is in the race. Rafa is in the race. It depends who is going to play the ATP Finals in London. So as I said, I can't be too ecstatic about it."