Novak Djokovic has advanced to his sixth Western & Southern Open final to keep alive his hopes of completing the Golden Masters.
The five-time Cincinnati runner-up ousted Croatian Marin Cilic 6-4 3-6 6-3 in two-and-a-half hours in his bid to claim the only ATP Masters tournament he is yet to win.
The Serbian quickly jumped to a 2-1 lead in the first set and he never dropped his serve as the took the opener.
Cilic charged into a more competitive second set, breaking the number 10 seed on his first serve and then again to run to a 5-1 lead, serving out to love to level the match.
Djokovic soon returned to form in the decider, winning 90% of his first serve points, and clinching the victory on his second match point.
He goes on to face second seed Roger Federer, who booked his place in the final after his opponent David Goffin retired injured at 7-6 (7/3) 1-1.
It will be the 46th time the former world number ones have met, Djokovic leading 23-22.
Quoted on the ATP website, the Wimbledon champion said: “I mean, it’s a final for me and the sixth time that I’ll try to win the title.
“Obviously this time I’m hoping that I can get my hands on the trophy. I will give my best. History is also on the line and I’m aware of that and that motivates me even more.”
In November next year the competition will see 18 nations compete in a week-long, round-robin tournament, with the inaugural edition taking place either in Madrid or Lille.
The overhaul of the 118-year-old competition was rubber-stamped despite the Lawn Tennis Association, the governing body of British tennis, announcing on Wednesday that it opposed the changes.
ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement: “I am delighted that the nations have voted to secure the long-term status of Davis Cup.
“Our mission is to ensure that this historic decision will benefit the next generation of players for decades to come.”
The ITF outlined the changes in conjunction with Kosmos, a company founded and chaired by Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique.
“Today is a historic day and we are convinced that the agreement ratified by the nations certainly guarantees the future of the Davis Cup and the development of tennis at all levels. I would like to thank ITF President David Haggerty, the ITF Board of Directors and the entire team of ITF professionals for their work with Kosmos over the past few months and welcome a new stage in which we will continue to evolve together. I would also like to congratulate all those who, with their votes, have embraced this change and have seen the momentous decision that was in their hands,” said Pique.
“This is the beginning of a new stage that guarantees the pre-eminent and legitimate place that the Davis Cup should have as a competition for national teams while adapting to the demands of this professional sport at the highest level. It is a great honour for me to be part of this historic process of a sport that I am passionate about and, without a doubt, in both personal and professional terms this is one of the happiest days of my life.”
The new #DavisCup format will involve a qualifying round in February, in which 24 teams will take part in home and away matches – a key element of the Davis Cup’s heritage— ITF (@ITF_Tennis) August 16, 2018
Find out more: https://t.co/AD6AMi8R4e pic.twitter.com/O5KspIpDXr
The Davis Cup is currently played in February, April, September and November at home and away venues.
However, an increasing number of top players have opted not to play in recent years due to the hectic schedule.
From next year the 18 countries will be divided into six groups with each qualifying round consisting of three matches – two singles and one doubles – of best-of-three sets.
The top teams from each group and the two highest-scoring runners-up will play the quarter-finals on the Friday, with the semi-finals on Saturday and the final held on Sunday.
In explaining its decision to vote against the changes, the LTA said in a statement: “Concerns remain that the proposed format and its impact on the tennis calendar, extending the season for players, risks player participation and therefore fan appeal.”
Great Britain, who won the Davis Cup in 2015, face Uzbekistan in a world group play-off in Glasgow next month.
Strong opponents to the reform proposal, Tennis Australia released a statement on Thursday urging the ITF to preserve the legacy of the Davis Cup. It’s worth noting that the Australia governing body have invested in two rivaling team events – the Laver Cup as well as the new ATP World Team Cup set to debut in 2020.
“Tennis Australia is extremely disappointed with the radical changes proposed for the Davis Cup. Reform is vital for the competition but this proposal takes away too much of what makes the Davis Cup unique and special, especially the home and away aspect which has brought elite tennis to so many fans around the world,” read the statement.
“The ITF now has a major responsibility to ensure the great heritage and prestige of the competition is somehow retained in this new version of Davis Cup.”
Serena Williams has exited the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati after a gruelling second-round defeat to Petra Kvitova.
The former world number one raced to victory in the opening round, but despite displaying some of her best tennis of late, she could not replicate the same form to advance to the last 16.
Number eight seed Kvitova applied the pressure from the start, breaking 23-time grand slam winner Williams twice in the first set.
Williams, who has won two titles in Cincinnati before, did not allow the momentum to drop in the second set, breaking her opponent in a marathon third game before grabbing a 5-2 lead and serving out for the set.
A nervy start to the third set saw both players drop their serve, but Kvitova found her stride to go 4-2 up and eventually emerge the 6-3 2-6 6-3 winner after two hours on court.
Loved every second of that battle. Always something special to share the court with @serenawilliams.
Thanks @cincytennis fans for staying out late 🙏
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) August 15, 2018
Meanwhile, number six seed Caroline Garcia fought back from 2-0 down in the first set and 5-3 in the second to overcome Victoria Azarenka 6-4 7-5 in one hour and 36 minutes.
Fifth seed Elina Svitolina faced an equally tough match against Svetlana Kuznetsova, with the Russian threatening Svitolina’s lead in each set.
With the breaks going back and forth, the Ukrainian eventually held serve to seal a 7-6 (7/1) 4-6 6-4 victory.
Karolina Pliskova, the ninth seed, beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-3 6-3, while Belgian Elise Mertens also progressed after her 6-4 6-2 win over Magdalena Rybarikova, as did Australian Ashleigh Barty.
However, 17th seed Naomi Osaka is out after the Japan player lost 6-3 7-6 (10/8) to Maria Sakkari of Greece.
Germany’s Tatjana Maria progressed to the second round, where she will take on American world number three Sloane Stephens, the defending US Open champion.
Elsewhere, there were first-round wins for Italian Camila Giorgi and Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, who defeated American Coco Vandeweghe 6-2 6-0.