KEY BISCAYNE (AP) — Basking in cheers following his latest victory, a weary but happy Novak Djokovic kissed his hand and patted the stadium court concrete, celebrating his return to the Miami Open final.READ MORE: Pivoting In Pandemic: Miami Maintenance Co. Credits FIU's Small Business Development Center For Helping Them Survive
In sweltering semifinal sunshine Friday, Djokovic won a thrilling tiebreaker to beat David Goffin 7-6 (5), 6-4. The margin was so slim a blown overhead by Goffin might have made all the difference.
Djokovic needs one more victory to match Andre Agassi’s tournament record of six men’s titles, which is why he showed his affection for the court.
“A little kiss for goodbye and see you in two days,” Djokovic said. “I wanted to make the court feel my love. It’s one of my favorite courts.”
His opponent Sunday will be steady Kei Nishikori, who committed only eight unforced errors in 119 points and beat big-swinging Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5.
Seeded No. 6, Nishikori saved five match points in a quarterfinal victory over Gael Monfils, and built a more comfortable margin against Kyrgios by breaking serve four times.
Nishikori is bidding for his first ATP Masters title, while Djokovic will try for his 28th, which would break the record he shares with Rafael Nadal.
“It’s going to be tough, for sure,” Nishikori said. “He has been playing well. I hope I can play another good match.”
Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka plays 2006 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women’s final Saturday.
Djokovic reached set point in the tiebreaker and worked hard to win it with a frantic 16-shot exchange typical that typified the entertaining match. He dug out shots in both corners and chased down a pair of volleys, finally switching from defense to offense by flicking a lob too high for the 5-foot-11 Goffin to handle.READ MORE: Earth Day: Recycling Right Is Key For The Future Of Our Environment
That clinched the set, and as fans roared, the world’s No. 1 player walked to his chair with his index finger aloft.
The tiebreaker turned four points earlier, at 4-all. Goffin had an easy putaway overhead near the net and inexplicably hit it directly to a surprised Djokovic, who invented a shot in response, raising the racket strings in front of his face to patty-cake a deep lob. Goffin chased the ball down and the rally continued until Djokovic tapped a drop volley for a winner.
“I was a bit fortunate in the tiebreaker,” Djokovic said. “But I made him play always an extra shot.”
Djokovic also earned points for sportsmanship. When Goffin challenged a call while returning serve, Djokovic waved off the replay, indicating it was unneeded because the linesman’s ruling was correct.
“Really fair play,” Goffin said, before noting with a chuckle that Djokovic went on to win the point anyway.
Eager to avoid a third set on an 87-degree afternoon, Djokovic earned the only break of the second set to take a 4-3 lead and lost only one point in his final two service games.
“Physically it was a great battle with a lot of exchanges from the baseline,” Djokovic said. “We were both trying to catch our breath at some points.”
Djokovic showed no signs of lingering issues from the back spasms that bothered him in the quarterfinals. He improved to 27-1 this year as he closed in on his fourth title of 2016.
On Key Biscayne, where he has won 15 consecutive matches, he’s bidding for his third title in a row. He has reached the final of his past 11 Masters tournaments.MORE NEWS: Initiatives Announced To Reduce Pollution In Miami-Dade County
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