TOKYO — Novak Djokovic has been in dominant form at the Japan Open. That bodes well for the top-ranked Serb’s chances of winning the gold medal at next year’s Olympics.
Playing on the same court that will host the tennis tournament at the Tokyo Olympics, Djokovic beat third-seeded David Goffin 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday to reach his fifth final this season, a showdown with Australian qualifier John Millman, who beat Reilly Opelka 6-3, 7-6 (4).
While some of the world’s top players opted not to take part in the Rio Olympics, Djokovic said he’s planning to play in Tokyo even though the Games start just two weeks after Wimbledon.
"I’ve already talked to you about the Olympics for an entire week," Djokovic said. "So that means I am committed, I am planning to be here and to play. So I’ll try to stay healthy, fit and come here. When I’ll come I still don’t know depending on Wimbledon, and how well I do there."
If he can maintain the type of play that has taken him into the Japan Open final, Djokovic will be the gold medal favourite. He got off to a strong start in Saturday’s semifinal by breaking Goffin in the second game of the first set.
"I knew that coming into this match he was in good form," said Djokovic, who is attempting to win a title on his tournament debut for the 10th time. "He was hitting the ball well, feeling well, so I needed to start well which I did. I made a break early in the match and with a break advantage I managed to hold my serve and win the first set 6-3."
The top-seeded Djokovic has not dropped a set in his four singles matches at Ariake Colosseum. None of his eight sets have gone to a tie-break, and he has been broken just twice in the tournament, losing an average of 3.5 games per set.
Djokovic broke Goffin in the first game of the second with a perfectly-placed volley at the net. Down 15-40 in the second game, he fought back to hold serve and never looked back.
"It was the same scenario in the second set," Djokovic said. "Started off with the break, saved some break points in a really close game — the second game of the second set — then after that I think we both served extremely well and precise."
Goffin was the only former champion in the draw. He lost to Nick Kyrgios in the 2016 final before defeating Adrian Mannarino for the title in 2017.
Djokovic retired with a left-shoulder injury during his fourth-round match against Stan Wawrinka at the U.S. Open but has shown no lingering effects in Tokyo.
The 32-year-old Serb is making a push to finish as year-end No. 1 for the sixth time, which would tie the mark held by Pete Sampras.