MONTREAL - It’s not the way he might have wanted to advance to the Rogers Cup final, but Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic will take the victory and shot at history.
The world No. 1 advanced to his second career final at the Canadian event Saturday after French opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew with a right arm injury while Djokovic was ahead 6-4, 3-0.
The top seed will face American Mardy Fish on Sunday afternoon with a chance to become the first player ever to win five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in a season.
“It’s too bad about Jo,” said Djokovic, who is now 52-1 this season including eight titles and two Grand Slams.
“I only noticed (after) the last game, 2-0, that he was not moving really well. We (had) played high-quality tennis for an hour.”
Djokovic began the night with a strong serve but Tsonga was equally adept, holding his own serve through the first eight games for a 4-4 tie.
The decisive turn came in the following game when the 24-year-old Serb broke Tsonga and then held serve to win the set 6-4.
The 13th-seeded Frenchman was clearly weakened to begin the second set, falling behind 3-0 before approaching the chair umpire and pointing to his right arm.
The official announced Tsonga’s retirement and the right-hander used his left arm to shake hands with Djokovic. He left the stadium to a round of applause, and scattered boos, from the sellout crowd of 11,437.
“My bicep was hurt,” Tsonga told reporters afterward. “It’s been two, three days.
“If you’re not at 100% (against Djokovic) you really have no chance.”
It was a bitter end for the world No. 16, who had only lost one set in his three Rogers Cup matches this week. Tsonga plans to treat his arm with ice and anti-inflammatories to get ready for Cincinnati next week and the U.S. Open after that.
Djokovic, meanwhile, hopes to create more fond memories of Montreal.
His win at Uniprix Stadium in 2007 launched his rise to the top of the tennis world. He attained the sport's top rank on July 4 of this year after capturing his first Wimbledon title and said a second Rogers Cup crown would be special.
“It’s a great pleasure to play here and I’m performing better and better every match, which is important and hopefully (Sunday) I can play a good match.”
Fish is enjoying a career year of his own, advancing to his first Rogers Cup final with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Janko Tipsarevic.
The 29-year-old Minnesotan broke the unseeded Serb three times, including twice in the first set. Tipsarevic came to the net often, but with little success as Fish punished him with sharp passing shots and his own finishing forecourt plays.
The world No. 8 has now appeared in six ATP World Tour semifinals this season. He won in Atlanta and lost in the final in Los Angeles.
Fish is the first American to make the Rogers Cup final since Andre Agassi lost to Rafael Nadal in 2005. The last American to win the tournament was Andy Roddick in 2003, a fact not lost on Fish.
“It’s certainly great company,” he said. “Andre was a great champion and Roddick is great as well.”
On the doubles side, Canadian Daniel Nestor and Belarussian partner Max Mirnyi lost 3-6, 4-6 in their semifinal match against Michael Llodra of France and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia.
The European duo advances to the final to face America’s Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, who beat Czech Tomas Berdych and German Florian Mayer 6-2, 6-1 in just 43 minutes.
The Bryan brothers are the defending Rogers Cup doubles champions and have won three titles overall.