Novak Djokovic saw off Grigor Dimitrov in the Paris Masters last four on Saturday to set up a final against Denis Shapovalov after Rafael Nadal pulled out of the competition just before his semi-final encounter.
Second seed Nadal could have secured the year-end world number one ranking by winning the Bercy title this week
However, there were no such issues for top-seeded Djokovic who came through a dramatic first-set tie-break before prevailing 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to move to the brink of a record-extending fifth Bercy title.
It will be the 50th Masters final of Djokovic’s career and his sixth in Paris, having lost to Russian Karen Khachanov in last year’s championship match.
“The first set, he played better,” said Djokovic. “It was played at a really high level. The atmosphere was incredible, especially in the tie-break.”
The 16-time Grand Slam champion is bidding for his fifth title of the season ahead of the ATP Tour Finals in London, which starts on November 10, where he will be hoping to equal Pete Sampras’ record of finishing six years as the world number one.
Djokovic has beaten 20-year-old Shapovalov in all three of their previous meetings.
Dimitrov started strongly on serve, showing the form that had taken him through the last three rounds without dropping a set but could not force a breakpoint as the opening set went to a tie-break.
The 28-year-old claimed a mini-break to lead 5-4 but then powered a simple volley into the tramlines after a 32-shot rally.
Djokovic claimed a one-set advantage, and pointed to his ear in celebration, after a brilliant 35-shot exchange on his first set point that ended with Dimitrov sending a backhand spinning long.
World number 27 Dimitrov, playing in his first Masters semi-final since losing to Nadal in Monte Carlo last year, appeared to have regained his composure at the start of the second set, but was broken in the fifth game as Djokovic closed in on victory.
Dimitrov managed to force his opponent to serve for a place in the final, but Djokovic did just that with his second straight hold to love.