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Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal to advance to ATP Tour finals

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic returns a shot against Rafael Nadal in the sATP Tour semifinals on Saturday in London.

(Will Oliver / EPA)

Already having the best season of his life and with only one more match to play this year, Novak Djokovic still has a chance to make some history.

The top-ranked Serb defeated Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 6-3, on Saturday in the semifinals of the ATP finals in London. Another win on Sunday against Roger Federer would make Djokovic the first person to win four straight titles at the season-ending tournament for the top eight players in the world.

“Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s match, the season will still be the best that I had,” said Djokovic, who won three of the four Grand Slam titles in 2015 and reached the final in the other.

Federer, a six-time champion, reached his 10th final in 14 appearances by beating Stan Wawrinka, 7-5, 6-3, in the other semifinal.

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Against Nadal on Saturday at the O2 Arena, the 10-time major champion showed why he is the best player in the world.

Djokovic lost only seven points on his serve in the first set and three in the second. On the receiving end, he converted three of his five break points, including in the final game of the match.

“Novak for the moment is almost unbeatable,” Nadal said. “What Novak is doing is just amazing.”

Nadal tried just about everything to stay in the match, even hitting a “tweener” in the last game. Djokovic lobbed the ball over Nadal’s head, but he chased it down and whipped a shot between his legs that made it back over the net. Fortunately for Djokovic, though, he was there to tap it back over and get the point.

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The win evened the head-to-record between the two players to 23-23, the first time Djokovic has managed to get level since the rivalry started in 2006. Their 46 meetings are the most between two players in the Open era.

This year it has been all Djokovic, who now has four straight victories over Nadal in nine straight sets. The run includes a quarterfinal victory at this year’s French Open, the clay-court major that Nadal has won a record nine times.

“It took a lot of time,” Djokovic said, playing down the importance of such statistics. “It’s more about obviously winning major titles and some other things.”

Djokovic, who won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year and reached the final at the French Open, is a four-time champion at the season-ending tournament. And although Federer has won it a record six times, no one has won four in a row.

Djokovic will get that chance.

“He’s doing everything good,” Nadal said. “He was better than me and he deserved to do what he did during the whole season. He played just fantastic.”

Nadal has been playing well, too, as his early-season struggles have disappeared over the last few months. He is 17-5 since losing in the third round of the U.S. Open, his most wins ever in that period.

That, he hopes, will bode well for next year. “We’ll see,” Nadal said. “2016 going to be a new year. Hopefully better one for me.”

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