Novak Djokovic sent defiant message from Paris Masters opponent – Not scared

US Open: Andy Murray practises with Taylor Fritz

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Novak Djokovic’s next opponent is feeling confident ahead of their Paris Masters quarter-final clash. Taylor Fritz has faced the world No 1 twice this season and been on the losing end, but pushed him to five sets during a bizarre Australian Open match, and is ready to clinch victory this time around. Having just secured the American No 1 ranking, Fritz said he wasn’t “scared” ahead of his match against the top seed on Friday afternoon.

Djokovic is playing in his first tournament since missing the chance to make history at the US Open.

The world No 1 came within one match of becoming the first man in 52 years to win the Calendar Grand Slam, and the first male since player in history to win a record 21st Major title, but was defeated by Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion took some time away from tennis after the crushing loss, and returned this week at the Rolex Paris Masters.

After surviving a tough first test against world No 40 Marton Fucsovics, being pushed to three sets, Djokovic received a walkover into the last-eight when his third-round opponent Gael Monfils was forced to pull out of the tournament injured, just hours before they were due to take to court.

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The top seed now faces another tricky opponent in Fritz, who clinched the American No 1 ranking with a convincing straight-sets win over recent Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie on Thursday.

The in-form 24-year-old recently made the final in St Petersburg and was part of the last-four in Indian Wells, and overcame 10th seed Norrie 6-3 7-6(3) in the third-round.

Fritz, a former Eastbourne champion, is feeling confident ahead of his match against the world No 1, and believes he’s currently playing his “best tennis ever”.

“I really felt confident going after my forehand,” Fritz told Tennis Channel after his win over world No 13 Norrie.

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“Set point, a lot of times in the past couple years I would not have pulled the trigger like that on the forehand.

“I’m not playing scared. I’m going after the ball.”

Norrie is the fifth top-ten seed in a row to become one of Fritz’s casualties, as the new American No 1 beat Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner and Alexander Zverev in Indian Wells, Andrey Rublev in St Petersburg, and has now all but ended Norrie’s hopes of qualifying for the ATP Finals.

Speaking on the improvements in his game that allowed him to beat Norrie – someone Fritz has now faced eight times on tour – he said: “The times I lose to Cam, I can’t put the ball away on him. The times I’m able to beat Cam, I’m very aggressive, I’m able to hit my forehand well, feeling like I’m able to finish points.

“I did a good job of saving myself in a lot of service games when I was down 0-15, 15-30.”

Fritz will now surpass world No 23 John Isner to become the highest-ranked American, but is vying for a spot in the top 20.

Downplaying his latest achievement, the 24-year-old said: “It’s No 1 American, but we have a rich history of Americans being ranked higher than 20. I hope I can keep improving.”

Fritz is now feeling confident ahead of his quarter-final against the top seed, and believes he can cause Djokovic trouble, having pushed the Serb to five sets in a bizarre Australian Open third-round that saw the crowd ejected mid-match as Victorian lockdown laws kicked in.

“I’m playing my best tennis ever,” Fritz added. “I think I can push him.”
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