ROLEX PARIS MASTERS From October 27th to November 4th 2018

Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic enjoyed another day to remember at the Rolex Paris Masters on Saturday, edging John Isner in three sets to become the first qualifier since 2012 to reach the final of the competition.

It turned out to be an emotional afternoon for Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic, who celebrated his semi-final defeat of John Isner by falling to his knees and kissing the court. No less overcome was his coach Petar Popovich, who peeled off his T-shirt, with both men bursting into tears. It will take the 25-year-old Serbian a little while to comprehend his stunning achievements at the AccorHotels Arena this week. Having travelled to Paris with the aim of breaking into the top 100, Krajinovic has fulfilled that goal and then some, helped in part by Rafael Nadal’s injury-enforced withdrawal from the quarter-finals, though that should take nothing away from his performance in defeating last year’s runner-up 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 in the semis. In doing so, Krajinovic became the first qualifier to reach the final of the last Masters 1000 of the season since Jerzy Janowicz.

Following an injury-ravaged 2016, the Serbian is delighted to be making a mark: “It’s the greatest day of my life,” he said afterwards. “I don’t believe it. I came here to play in the qualifiers and here I am in the final of a Masters 1000. It’s a dream come true. I missed last season and had a lot of bad luck with injuries. I dropped down to 300th in the rankings. When I came here I had my sights set on the top 100 but I’m going to be going away in around 40th. I don’t know what to say. I’m going to celebrate a little with my father and coach, and then I’ll start thinking about the final.”

The Serbian made a slow start to the match and faced a break point in his opening service game. After staving it off, he suddenly came into his own, hitting some superb passing shots and mixing his game up cleverly. Though Isner sent down 31 aces in the match – the fastest of them at 224 kmh – he was visibly slower on his feet than usual. Exerting pressure on the American’s serve, Krajinovic broke him in the fifth game of the opening set when Isner pushed a low volley into the net.

Displaying a remarkably cool head for someone playing their first semi-final at this level, the Serbian closed out the first set and only relinquished the second in a tie-break. Isner drew on all his experience and power to win it 7-2, clinching the set with a 206-kmh ace.

In a tight third set, the 2016 runner-up passed up break points in the first and ninth games and gave up 3-0 and 4-2 leads in the decisive tie-break. Showing the American how it was done, Krajinovic sealed an unexpected victory with a pinpoint forehand winner. His dream week continues.

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