Novak Djokovic said he played “one of his best matches of the season” to thrash seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-1, 6-2 on Friday and set up a Paris Masters semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov.
The 32-year-old, battling Rafael Nadal for the year-end world number one spot, dispatched Greek star Tsitsipas in only 58 minutes.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion went into the match with a 2-1 losing record against Tsitsipas, but put the young world number seven in his place with a commanding victory.
“I played one of the best matches of the season,” said Djokovic. “I prepared myself very well for this match.
“I lost to Stefanos about three weeks ago in Shanghai. And obviously I went through the videos and understanding on what I did well, what I didn’t do so well, what I can do better.”
Djokovic will be usurped by Nadal at the top of the rankings next week, but can ensure the fight to be the best player at the end of the year reaches the ATP Tour Finals in London by winning a record-extending fifth title at Bercy.
The crushing defeat ended Tsitsipas’ run of three consecutive semi-finals and dealt a blow to his confidence ahead of his maiden appearance at the season-ending championships, which start on November 10.
Djokovic holds an 8-1 winning head-to-head record against Dimitrov, who saw off unseeded Chilean Cristian Garin 6-2, 7-5 earlier in the day.
“He (Dimitrov) has been one of the best talents we had in the sport in the last decade,” said Djokovic, who is bidding to tie Pete Sampras’ record of finishing as the year-end number one on six occasions.
“He’s been playing some terrific tennis this week… I don’t play too bad myself, so it’s going to be for sure a good one.”
Tsitsipas made a nightmare start, as back-to-back double faults gifted his illustrious opponent a break in just the second game.
Djokovic had been struggling with illness earlier in the week and laboured past Corentin Moutet and Kyle Edmund in his first two matches, but was at his irrepressible best en route to a 5-0 lead.
Tsitsipas, encouraged by a packed crowd, avoided a first-set bagel by saving three set points, only for Djokovic to serve it out in the following game after a mere 28 minutes on court.
The 21-year-old’s misery was compounded by a time violation in the third game of the second set, and Serbian Djokovic duly broke his serve.
Another break to love helped the top seed forge 5-1 in front, and Tsitsipas’ humiliation was complete when he carved a forehand wide on match point.
Former world number three Dimitrov last reached the semis at a Masters tournament in Monte Carlo in 2018, but has rediscovered his form in recent weeks after heading into the US Open ranked 78th.
The Bulgarian became the lowest-ranked player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since 2008 at Flushing Meadows, before losing to Daniil Medvedev.
Dimitrov has now won three consecutive matches in straight sets at Bercy, where he had lost in the third round in each of the previous six years.
World number 42 Garin, playing in his first Masters quarter-final, served for the second set at 5-4, but the 28-year-old Dimitrov reeled off three straight games to claim an impressive victory.
Later Friday, second seed Nadal takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga while Gael Monfils, who is still in contention for a place at the ATP Finals, faces Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.