Djokovic sets up Tel Aviv title clash against Cilic

Tel Aviv, Oct 2 (IANS): Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic continued to maintain his perfect run at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open with the top seed producing a high-quality semifinal performance to get the better of Russia's Roman Safiullin 6-1, 7-6(3) and reach his fourth tour-level final in 2022.

The 35-year-old Djokovic will take on second seed Marin Cilic of Croatia, who was a 7-5, 6-3 winner against Frenchman Constant Lestienne in the ATP 250 tournament.

Djokovic dropped just three points on his serve in a near-perfect first-set showing as he stamped his authority early in his maiden clash against the world No. 104 Safiullin. The Russian, though, raised his level in the second set, finding his range with his powerful groundstrokes to break the top seed when he was serving for the match at 5-4. However, Djokovic remained composed in the tie-break to complete his third straight-sets victory of the week in Israel in 95 minutes.

"I think it was a very competitive match, especially in the second set," Djokovic was quoted as saying by "I must say I was quite emotional on the court today in the second set, there was a lot of tension, and that was also due to his aggressive style of tennis. Big serves, and when he has time, he's so solid from the forehand and backhand corner.

"I knew that I had to stay very strong, and that he was definitely going to raise his level in the second set, which happened. I was serving for the match and played a couple of loose points, but credit to him for fighting back. It was an enjoyable evening on the court for sure.

"In the tie-break he helped me out, he missed a couple of forehands, but I stayed solid and played the right shots at the right time,""said Djokovic.

"Of course, in the semifinals of a tournament you can expect to have a tough opponent that will challenge you to the very last shot, which actually happened today (Saturday), and I'm just pleased to overcome the challenge."

This will be Djokovic's first tour-level hard-court final since his triumph at the 2021 Paris Masters last November. The 35-year-old will now play for his third tour-level crown of the year in Sunday's title clash against Marin Cilic.

Cilic is chasing his maiden Tour title of 2022 in Tel Aviv.

"It's always great to win in two (sets), but it was a fantastic match and Constant played amazing tennis," said Cilic after his one-hour, 47-minute win. "It was my first time seeing him play at a tournament and he played amazing tennis, all the credit to him."



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Title: Djokovic sets up Tel Aviv title clash against Cilic

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