Novak Djokovic has ensured he would clinch the year-end world No.1 spot for a record seventh time by securing his place in the Paris Masters final with a 3-6 6-0 7-6 (7-5) victory against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.
The top-seeded Serbian had a wobbly start at the Bercy arena on Saturday against an opponent who booked the last ticket for the season-ending ATP Finals on Friday, but raced through the second and handled his nerves in the third.
Djokovic, 34, previously shared the record with American Pete Sampras. He has now finished the year top of the rankings in seven of the past 11 seasons (2011, 12, 14, 15, 18 and 20).
Djokovic said: “(I’m) just proud and extremely happy. Obviously that was one of the biggest goals, and it’s always one of the biggest goals, to try to be number one and end the season as number one.
“To do it for the record seventh time and surpass my childhood idol and role model Pete is incredible. Very grateful, very blessed to be in this position.”
Gunning for a sixth title in Paris, Djokovic will face Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s showdown. The second-seeded beat fourth-seeded German Alexander Zverev 6-2 6-2.
Medvedev won five successive games in the first set, to go from 1-2 to 6-2, then five in succession in the second to go from 0-1 to 5-1.
Djokovic, who needs to win the Paris final to avoid failing to claim a Masters title in a season for the first time since 2017, dropped serve in the eighth game and Hurkacz followed up on serve to seal the opening set.
It spurred Djokovic into action and the world No.1 allowed his opponent only 11 points in the second set.
Hurkacz regained his composure in the decider, but Djokovic was a notch above and he broke for 3-1 with a forehand winner at the end of a long rally.
He followed with a service game to love but Hurkacz fought back to break back for 3-4 as he hammered a forehand winner down the line.
Djokovic wasted a match point at 5-4 and the tie went into a decider, which Hurkacz dominated until he buried a routine forehand into the net to put Djokovic 6-5 up with another match point.
The Pole sliced a backhand wide, allowing Djokovic to move within one victory of a record 37th Masters title.
Both he and Rafael Nadal are tied with 36 titles each.