Novak Djokovic fought back from a set down to beat Andrey Rublev in a pulsating Paris Masters semi-final on Saturday.
The world number one won 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 and will face Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in Sunday’s final.
Dimitrov beat seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 7-6 (7-3).
Djokovic is chasing a record-extending seventh crown and 40th Masters title, while Dimitrov will be playing for his second Masters trophy.
The Serb had won all eight of his Paris Masters semi-finals coming into Saturday’s match, and Rublev threatened to inflict a first defeat upon Djokovic at this stage.
“Rublev was suffocating me like a snake suffocates a frog for most of the match,” Djokovic said.
“He was playing at an extremely high level. I knew that he possesses great quality but today he played off the charts. I don’t think I’ve ever faced Rublev this good.”
After consecutive breaks of serve at the beginning of the three-hour match, it was Rublev who settled quicker. The Russian was composed and Djokovic agitated throughout the first set, making eight unforced errors compared with two from Rublev.
The fifth seed broke Djokovic to win the opening set as the 36-year-old played a loose drop shot which barely reached the net to concede the game.
Djokovic raised his level in the second set which made for a compelling encounter as both players came alive in fantastic rallies.
The 24-time Grand Slam champion created sumptuous angles and stretched impressively to reach balls. Rublev, 26, matched his opponent, dragging Djokovic around the court with precise, powerful hitting and utilising his trademark damaging forehand.
In the tie-break it was a familiar tale though, as Djokovic levelled the match, hitting a stunning cross-court forehand return winner in the process.
After receiving treatment on his back, Djokovic’s experience shone through in the final set as Rublev finally succumbed, double-faulting on match point to gift the six-time Paris Masters champion victory.
Dimitrov dazzles against Tsitsipas
Dimitrov showed why he should still be considered a threat at the top of the men’s game – the unseeded Bulgarian played sublime tennis and produced a high level when it mattered most in the deciding tie-break against Tsitsipas.
“There were no tears but I got very emotional,” said Dimitrov.
“I am just living in the moment right now….