Canadian Denis Shapovalov advances to Paris Masters final after Nadal withdraws

Denis Shapovalov (CAN) in action during the Rolex Paris Masters, match between Denis Shapovalov (CAN) and Gael Monfils (FRA), Day 05, at the Hotel Accord Arena, on November 01, 2019, in Paris, France. Photo by Loic Baratoux/ABACAPRESS.COM

Canada’s Denis Shapovalov advanced to the finals of the Paris Masters on Saturday when opponent Rafael Nadal withdrew with an abdominal injury before the match.

The 20-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., will face No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the title on Sunday.

Djokovic reached his sixth Paris Masters final with a 7-6 (5), 6-4 win Saturday against Grigor Dimitrov, beating him for the ninth time in their 10 career matches.

Shapovalov, who won his first ATP title at the 250-level Stockholm Open last month, will compete in his first Masters 1000 final.

READ MORE: Canadian Denis Shapovalov wins first ATP title at Stockholm Open

Ranked No. 28 heading into the tournament, Shapovalov has played some of the best tennis of his career this week. He dispatched higher-ranked opponents in three consecutive matches to reach the semifinals, including an upset win over No. 6-seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in the round of 16.

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His walkover victory Saturday puts Shapovalov at a career high No. 15. He would jump to No. 11 with a win Sunday.

The Canadian is 0-3 against Djokovic in his career. All three of those losses have come this season _ two in Masters 1000 tournaments and the other at the Australian Open.

“Denis has reduced his unforced errors. His game has always been there, and especially this year he’s improved even more,” said Djokovic, who is aiming for a 77th career title. “He has played some impressive tennis, yesterday especially against (Gael) Monfils.”

Click to play video: 'Denis Shapovalov reflects on his success, looks ahead to 2019 and beyond' Denis Shapovalov reflects on his success, looks ahead to 2019 and beyond
Denis Shapovalov reflects on his success, looks ahead to 2019 and beyond – Nov 23, 2018

Nadal said he felt something in his adominal while practising before the semifinal on Saturday and got checked out by medical staff.

“We saw something on the image, probably a small strain,” Nadal said. “I tried to come back on court to practise again and to see how things are going with my serve but I was still feeling the pain there.”

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Last year, Nadal missed the season-ending ATP Finals in London because of the abdominal injury, but hopes he can recover in time for this year’s finals starting on Nov. 10.

“I hope to be ready for London, that’s the biggest goal now,” he said. “I will do all what’s possible to recover for it.”

In a tight opening set where neither faced a break point, Dimitrov cracked in the tiebreaker faced with the defensive resilience of Djokovic.

READ MORE: Bianca Andreescu becomes highest-ranked Canadian in WTA tour history

With Dimitrov up 5-4 and controlling the exchanges, a 32-stroke rally ended when he advanced to the net and tried an extravagant forehand volley to the left. He could have played an easier shot with a controlled backhand to the vacant right side of the court.

The ball landed out and Djokovic punched the air, roaring in relief.

Then, on set point, a 35-stroke rally ended when Dimitrov chopped a backhand long.

“He was probably the better player in the tiebreak. I managed to get returns into play and just make him play an extra shot,” Djokovic said. “We both really understood the importance of clinching the first set so we could feel a bit more relaxed in the second and start swinging through.”

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Click to play video: 'Shapovalov workshop inspires new generation of players' Shapovalov workshop inspires new generation of players
Shapovalov workshop inspires new generation of players – Aug 3, 2019

Djokovic broke Dimitrov in the fifth game of the second set when the unseeded Bulgarian swatted a forehand long.

Serving for the match, Djokovic held to love.

Djokovic won his first title here 10 years ago and three straight from 2013-15. He lost his only final last year to Karen Khachanov.

He is bidding to finish the year as No. 1 for the sixth time, which would move him one ahead of Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors, and into a tie with all-time leader Pete Sampras.

Nadal is looking to seal the year-end top ranking for the fifth time.

His injury last year ensured Djokovic ended as No. 1.

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