By JEROME PUGMIRE – Japan Today
The day after ensuring he finishes No. 1 for a record seventh year, Novak Djokovic beat No. 2 Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the Paris Masters final on Sunday for a record 37th Masters title.
Djokovic moved one clear of fellow 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal for Masters trophies, and nine ahead of Roger Federer, the other tennis great with 20 majors.
It also gave Djokovic a record-extending sixth Paris Masters title and put him 6-4 up overall against the No. 2-ranked Medvedev, who is pushing hard to dethrone him in world tennis.
The veteran Serb had lost to Medvedev in straight sets in the U.S. Open final two months ago and had not played a tournament since.
Medvedev looked strong early on but top-seeded Djokovic, who beat him in straight sets in this year’s Australian Open final, withstood punishing rallies against an opponent nine years younger.
Djokovic’s double break against a tiring Medvedev, the defending champion, gave him a 5-2 lead and the chance to serve for an 86th career title.
Second-seeded Medvedev swiped a ball into the crowd in frustration after a fan yelled just as he was serving at 30-40 down in that game, and he pointed to the crowd in frustration at the changeover.
Some rowdy fans have cheered serving errors and double-faults, or shouted just before serves throughout the week.
Chair umpire Aurelie Tourte finally had enough, after her earlier requests for calm and in previous days from other umpires.
“When you see players on the baseline who are just about to serve,” she said, “stop making noise for nothing.”
A poor service game from Djokovic gifted Medvedev a break back to 5-3.
But on his first match point, Djokovic won a thrilling long rally befitting a great final with a forehand winner deep into the left of the court. He hugged his rival warmly at the net.
“I suffered a lot, well done to you. I really wanted to win but you’re so strong,” Medvedev said on court in near-fluent French. “I hope we play many matches like this, and we win a few each.”
Djokovic seemed overawed by Medvedev’s language skills.
“What a magical level of French you have. My level is not like Daniil’s but I try,” Djokovic responded in French. “I also suffered a lot today and also in New York, but this is a great rivalry developing.”
Djokovic celebrated with his wife, his young son and daughter.
“Today was very special for me because my family is here,” Djokovic said “It’s the first time both of my children are together to watch one of my matches.”
The contest was intense from the outset.
Serving at 30-40 down in the sixth game, Medvedev saved a break point with a forehand winner before holding and then pressuring Djokovic at 0-40 down.
The 34-year-old Serb saved two break points but could only applaud as Medvedev’s sliced backhand drop shot gave him the break.
The 25-year-old Russian served out the set when Djokovic returned long.
Djokovic was in his record-extending seventh final here and found his range to break and then hold 4-1 in the second set.
Serving at 5-3, Djokovic saved three break points in a thrilling 12-minute game featuring tight rallies.
Djokovic hit an ace on his third set point to level a tense match that had the crowd on their feet after improbable retrieves or winners from both.
There was a downside, though.
Earlier, Tourte had already intervened to demand “a bit of respect for the players” after one fan shouted just as Djokovic was about to serve at 15-30 down in the third game.
She also told one fan to stop filming with a phone during play and twice asked for a door to be closed high in the stands as people were walking in and out of it.
“Why not go for a walk outside?” she asked.
Tournament director Guy Forget earlier said that fans sometimes went too far in their exuberance, cheering errors and double-faults from opponents who faced Frenchman Hugo Gaston. During his semifinal match on Saturday, Djokovic was annoyed when his double-fault drew loud cheers.
“There was a real desire to show one’s joy, one’s emotion at being here,” Forget said. “Sometimes, if I may say so, it was borderline toward the opponent.”
But Djokovic’s week was a special one, as he moved one ahead of childhood idol Pete Sampras for No. 1 year-end finishes.
In a stellar year in which he won three majors, Djokovic eclipsed Federer’s all-time mark of 310 weeks at No. 1 on March 8 and will finish 2021 having held the top ranking for 348 weeks.
He now turns his attention toward a record-equaling sixth ATP Finals title to tie with Federer.
The season-ending event starts on Nov 14 in Turin.