It was a historic day on Saturday for Novak Djokovic who played the 1000-match of his career in the Rolex Shanghai Masters semifinal and it was in the evening that saw 21 year old Borna Coric score probably the win of his young career.
The honor of permitting Djokovic to claim a victory in that important 1000th match fell to fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who more than cooperated to give the Serbian a 6-2, 6-1 win and a berth in his fourth Shanghai final. Djokovic now heads into Sunday’s final with a 827-173 winning match record to date.
Asked whether he had imagined such an incredible career when he played his first official match – a Davis Cup encounter against Latvia as a 16-year-old – he showed off some self-belief.
“I wouldn’t be so dedicated to this sport if I didn’t believe that I can achieve great heights,” Djokovic said. “But you always have to kind of pinch yourself, particularly at this stage of my career, and be grateful because in the end of the day, I did have an awesome career so far that has blessed me with a lot of great achievements.”
Djokovic’s semifinal win also moved him up one spot in the rankings from No. 3 to No. 2, which means he’s traded ranking places with Roger Federer.
Speaking of Federer, it was not as successful a day for the defending champion on Saturday as it was for Djokovic. The 13th-seeded Borna Coric spoiled Federer’s hopes of contesting for a third Shanghai title by posting a 6-4, 6-4 semifinal upset over the 20-time Grand Slam champion in just 73-minutes.
“I thought he was better,” Federer admitted. “I think he had more punch on the ball. He served better. I think that’s it. The rest, he had more chances than I had. I got off to a bad start in both sets. That combination is plenty here in Shanghai with fast conditions.”
Coric, who never faltered on serve to give Federer a break point opportunity, broke Federer’s serve in the opening game of both sets. The Croatian ended the match with two perfectly executed points: an ace and a forehand crosscourt winner.
It was the second consecutive win for Coric over Federer, who also prevailed in the Halle, Germany final on grass in June. They are now 2-2 in their career head-to-head.
“Today really I just came on the court with absolutely no pressure but really, really, like, zero pressure,” Coric said. “I basically didn’t care, you know, and that’s why I think I played so good, because I just said to myself, ‘okay, I have nothing to lose.’ I did probably hundred times more than what I expected. So, you know, I just need to go out there and I just need to enjoy.”
Coric will be appearing in his first Masters 1000 final on Sunday and will have to do better than he has in the past against Djokovic. They’ve played twice before and Coric has yet to win a set.
This will be Djokovic’s fourth appearance in a Shanghai final and it’s worth noting he holds a perfect 3-0 record in his previous championship matches here. Only Andy Murray’s also featured in four finals during the decade-long Shanghai Masters.
Djokovic is currently sailing on a 17-match winning streak and is 26-1 in matches played since the start of Wimbledon.
“I did everything I intended to do on my end,” said Djokovic, after the match. “It’s all working and it’s been a couple of perfect matches. There’s a lot of positives to take from my matches this week.”
Djokovic’s played 37 service games this week and has yet to be broken. In the Zverev match he never offered the German a break point opportunity.
Djokovic is hoping to win a fourth overall title this year, which is stunning considering he started the year out having surgery on his right elbow. He won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles this year, which finds him tied in third place with Pete Sampras, who also owns 14 Grand Slam trophies.