Novak Djokovic reaches Paris Masters final to end record 7th year as No. 1

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PARIS — Novak Djokovic will end the year at No. 1 for a record seventh time after rallying to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-0, 7-6 (5) in the Paris Masters semifinals.

Djokovic, who also stays on course for a record-extending sixth Paris Masters title, moved one ahead of American Pete Sampras, who secured his six top year-end finishes from 1993-98.

“I’m very proud to finish the season as No. 1,” Djokovic said. “It’s a dream, honestly, because Sampras was such an idol for me when I was young. He motivated me to pick up the racket and try this sport.”

Djokovic also finished the year top in 2011-12, 2014-15, 2018 and 2020.

“It’s a huge achievement, obviously,” Djokovic said. “To make the historic seventh time … (I am) overwhelmed with all the beautiful, positive emotions.”

Djokovic eclipsed Roger 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.

Another win on Sunday will give Djokovic a record 37th Masters title to move one clear of fellow 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal.

The top-ranked Serb has also reached a record-extending seventh final here, where he faces Russian Daniil Medvedev after losing to him in straight sets in the U.S. Open final two months ago. Djokovic had not played since.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to turn the tables,” Djokovic said.

Second-seeded Medvedev routed No. 4 Alexander Zverev – the Olympic champion – 6-2, 6-2 for a fourth straight win against him, having also beaten him in last year’s final. They are now 5-5 overall.

Medvedev, the defending champion, was clinical.

He sealed the first set at the first go when Zverev returned his strong second serve into the net and victory on his first match point at 40-15 when Zverev could only pat a strong serve wide.

Djokovic leads Medvedev 5-4 overall. They have split the last two meetings, both majors, with Djokovic winning in straight sets in the Australian Open final this year.

“He’s been playing fantastic tennis, he’s back at his best,” Djokovic said. “He’s not missing much and serving big, it seems like he’s finding the groove.”

Djokovic was in his 71st Masters semifinal and Hurkacz just his second.

But Hurkacz forged the first break point of the match in the eighth game and took it with a backhand volley at the net for 5-3.

Djokovic had a chance to break back with Hurkacz 30-40 down in the next game, but the Serb made two sloppy unforced errors and Hurkacz took the first set on his second set point with a strong first serve that Djokovic returned long.

Djokovic hit back in an imperious second set and took control of the decider with a strong service game to move 4-1 up.

But Djokovic’s double-fault in the seventh game gave Hurkacz two break points. Djokovic sarcastically applauded the crowd after some of them had cheered his double-fault.

“In the heat of the battle, things can happen. People get involved in the match,” Djokovic said. “Of course I did not like that … It’s not the first time, probably not the last time.”

The Parisian crowd had also loudly cheered errors and double-faults from players who were up against Frenchman Hugo Gaston on Thursday and Friday.

“Obviously playing against a French player is a whole different atmosphere,” Djokovic said. “You could see that both (Carlos) Alcaraz and Medvedev were feeling uncomfortable on the court with that crowd being involved so much and being loud.”

Djokovic was much more comfortable holding for a 5-4 lead, and sat in a meditative pose during the changeover.

Serving to stay in the match, Hurkacz was at deuce when Djokovic edged a 25-shot rally to forge a first match point.

He saved it on second serve when Djokovic’s backhand landed just wide. He then held with an ace for 5-5.

The tiebreaker was close at 5-5 when Hurkacz’s loose forehand into the net gave Djokovic a second match point and he clinched victory when Hurkacz’s sliced backhand at full stretch landed just wide.

Djokovic beat his chest three times and let out a roar as he celebrated his victory, then applauded his opponent off court.

Hurkacz broke into the Top 10 for the first time last month and has qualified for the eight-man season-ending ATP Finals, which start on Nov. 14 in Turin.

Djokovic will also be looking for a record-equaling sixth ATP Finals title to tie with Federer.

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

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PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”