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Djokovic sets up Paris Masters final against Dimitrov after sinking Rublev

Novak Djokovic will face Grigor Dimitrov in the Paris Masters final after taking down the fifth seed, Andrey Rublev, in a nervy semi-final 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5.

The world No 1 is chasing a record-extending seventh title at the ATP Masters 1000 but has not always looked assured in this tournament, his first since winning the US Open in September.

Rublev controlled the first set, taking advantage of eight unforced errors from his Serbian opponent, who required treatment to his lower back after forcing the three-hour and two-minute match into a third set with an ace.

Djokovic, who sealed victory after a double-fault from the Russian, told Tennis TV: “Rublev was suffocating me like a snake suffocates a frog for most of the match.

“He was playing on an extremely high level. I knew that he possesses a great quality but today he played off the charts, honestly. I don’t think I’ve ever faced Rublev this good. On the other hand, I was struggling again with my fitness a little bit at the beginning, but I just kind of went through it.”

Grigor Dimitrov plays a shot against Stefanos Tsitsipas.Grigor Dimitrov said he had to dig deep to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in their semi-final in Paris. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu/Getty Images

The victory marked the 14th time Djokovic has reached 50 wins in a year and extended his winning streak to 17 matches to reach the 58th Masters 1000 final of his career.

The unseeded Dimitrov, meanwhile, will play in only his second ATP Masters 1000 final and first since 2017 after a 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3) semi-final victory against the seventh seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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The Bulgarian saved all four break points he faced and was at one point 15-40 down in the third set before digging in and willing himself into a mindset shift. “I was just thinking it can’t keep going like this, so I have to change something,” he told the ATP website. “In order to beat someone like him I just had to step through. That is the only thing I could have done.

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“There were no tears, but I got very emotional [after the win]. I am just living in the moment right now. It has been a funny road of late, but each win means more and more to me.”

Dimitrov will try for his ninth career ATP singles title on Sunday, and a first since 2017.