Top-ranked Novak Djokovic has been made to fight for more than three hours by Andrey Rublev in their semi-final match before earning the right to play for a record-extending seventh title at the Paris Masters.
Djokovic overcame a slow start on Saturday to rally past his fifth-seeded Russian opponent 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 and maintain his perfect record in the semis at the indoor tournament. The Serb will take on Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov in Sunday's decider.
"Rublev was suffocating me like a snake suffocates a frog for most of the match," Djokovic said.
"He was playing an extremely high level that he possesses, but today he was off the charts, honestly. I don't think I've ever faced Rublev this good."
The road to the final has not been an easy one for Djokovic, who defeated defending champion Holger Rune in a three-set quarter-final and also came out on top of a three-set contest in the third round.
Djokovic said he has been hampered by a stomach virus that made "him feel terrible the past three days." He took pride in "not giving up, fighting and believing that I can come back, which happened again and hopefully it can happen tomorrow."
After a six-year absence, Grigor Dimitrov is back in a Masters 1000 tournament final.
The 32-year-old overcame strong resistance from seventh-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas to record a 6-3 6-7 (7-1) 7-6 (7-3) victory.
He made the most of a poor start by Tsitsipas to claim the first set before his Greek rival saved two break points at 4-4 in the second set and started a comeback.
Dimitrov made several mistakes in the tiebreaker as Tsitsipas forced a decider, gesturing toward the crowd to ask for support.
Tsitsipas, however, could not convert four break point chances in the third game. Dimitrov then rose to the occasion in the final breaker when he hit three superb passing shots, including one to seal the match.
"I am just happy I was able to get through that match in such a manner," Dimitrov said.
"After that second set, especially the tiebreak, it was getting very tricky again. 15-40 down in the third again and I was just thinking it can't keep going like this, so I have to change something.
"If you let him dictate, you are done. But I kept on believing and kept staying focused and made sure every time I had the ball on the racket, I did something with it."
Dimitrov is chasing his first tour-level tournament victory since 2017, when he won the ATP Finals. He reached his only previous Masters 1000 final the same year in Cincinnati.