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In Tel Aviv, ‘quite emotional’ Djokovic reaches his fourth tennis final of season

35-year-old looks to win third title this year, 89th of career, in Sunday’s final

Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball during the men's singles semifinal tennis match against Russia's Roman Safiullin at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open 2022 in Israel on October 1, 2022. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball during the men's singles semifinal tennis match against Russia's Roman Safiullin at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open 2022 in Israel on October 1, 2022. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Novak Djokovic said he felt “quite emotional” after reaching his fourth final of 2022 on Saturday with a straight-sets win over Roman Safiullin in the Tel Aviv semi-finals.

The 35-year-old Djokovic triumphed 6-1, 7-6 (7/3) and will look to win his third title of the season, and 89th of his career, when he tackles either Croatia’s Marin Cilic or Constant Lestienne of France in Sunday’s final.

“I think it was a very competitive match, especially in the second set,” said Djokovic after reaching his 127th final.

“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.”

Former world number one Djokovic raced to a 5-0 lead on his way to capturing the opening set in just 23 minutes without facing a break point.

However, Safiullin, the world number 104 bidding to make an ATP final for the first time, was far more competitive in the second set.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic speaks after winning his men’s singles semifinal tennis match against Russia’s Roman Safiullin at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open 2022 in Israel on October 1, 2022. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

He had two break points which Djokovic saved in the sixth game. The 25-year-old Russian was made to pay when the 21-time Grand Slam winner broke for a 5-4 lead.

Safiullin battled back to 6-6 before Djokovic swept through the tiebreaker, securing victory after 94 minutes on court.

“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,” added Djokovic.

“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.”

Djokovic, who has titles in Rome and at Wimbledon this year, is currently seventh in the rankings and as a Grand Slam winner only needs to finish in the top 20 to guarantee a place in the ATP Finals.

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