Accra, Nov. 16, (GNA/dpa) – Novak Djokovic struggled through a pair of tough tiebreaks on Tuesday to book the first semi-final spot at the World Tour Finals with 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5) over Milos Raonic.
The Canadian, who has lost to the Serb in all eight of their matches, will have a chance to play for second in the group on Thursday as he faces Dominic Thiem in a winner-take-it-all match.
Thiem stayed in the chase for the final four in his year-ender debut as he beat fellow London debutant Gael Monfils 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.
The Frenchman who came in injured, said he might not be fit enough to play his last group match with Djokovic; in that case his place would be taken by alternate David Goffin.
Djokovic struggled for more than two hours with Raonic, who is chasing a possible number three season finish along with rival Kei Nishikori and current holder Stan Wawrinka.
Djokovic took an hour to win the opening set against Canadian Raonic, who 10 days ago feared he might not make it to London due to a leg muscle injury.
The Serb world number two then lost two breaks in the second set before squeezing home victory in the second tiebreaker of the evening after saving a set point in the 12th game of the third set.
« I was just hanging in there, » Djokovic said. « I stayed mentally strong and took my opportunities when they occurred.
« The first set was close, and in the second, only a few points that separated us. The match could have gone either way.
« He’s very strong and his serve is a weapon. He has firepower, he can play well. I knew he would play aggressive – I did a lot of running. »
Thiem swept the opening set against the colourful Monfils but the 30-year-old Frenchman finally came to life and forced a deciding set.
Monfils however eventually stumbled with three double-faults in the final game of the third to go down in just under 90 minutes.
« It was a very close match, I had the better start, » Thiem said. « But he played well in the second set and maybe got a bit tight in the third.
« I was the lucky one, he helped me in the final game. I will now look ahead to playing Raonic. »
Thiem beat Monfils in their only other meeting in 2015 on clay. The Austrian has played 27 ATP events this season, more than any other major player, heading into the final elite ATP event of 2016. Tuesday’s win was his 58th of the year.
Djokovic is battling this week with new number one Andy Murray, with the man who wins the most matches at the event set to end the season atop the rankings.