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SWEET TRIUMPH — Djokovic captures 7th Paris Masters crown

It’s difficult to explain emotions.

NOVAK Djokovic lifts his record-extending seventh Paris Masters trophy following a 6-4, 6-3 win over Grigor Dimitrov.  | JULIEN DE ROSA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS, France (AFP) — Novak Djokovic defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-3 in the final to win a record-extending seventh Paris Masters title and close in on securing the year-end No. 1 ranking for an eighth time.

The 36-year-old Djokovic eclipsed his previous record set two years ago as the tournament’s oldest champion, capturing his 40th Masters 1000 title and stretching his winning run to 18 matches.

Djokovic collected his sixth title of the season to draw level with Carlos Alcaraz, adding to three Grand Slams and the Masters victory in Cincinnati that set him up for a landmark 24th major crown at the US Open.

“It’s incredible. To be able to win it after quite challenging circumstances for me this week,” said Djokovic, who had been hit by a stomach virus that left him feeling under the weather in Paris.

“Considering what happened in the last six, seven days, this win has more weight and more value and it’s extra sweeter.”

“It’s one of those weeks where you just have to accept the circumstances and fight to survive another day.”

Djokovic was taken to three sets in each of his three previous rounds but didn’t face a single break point against the 17th-ranked Dimitrov.

“Basically, coming back from the brink of losing three matches in a row, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I was very close to losing those matches and somehow managed to find an extra gear when it was needed,” Djokovic said.

It is the second time Djokovic has completed a French Open and Paris Masters double in the same season. Andre Agassi is the only other player to achieve it.

Djokovic’s seventh Bercy crown makes it his most successful Masters event ahead of Miami and Rome, where he has won on six occasions each.

His 97th career title also nudged him closer to Jimmy Connors (109) and Roger Federer (103).

Djokovic will take a 1,490-point lead over Alcaraz into the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin later this month. He needs just one win there to guarantee he finishes 2023 as the world’s top-ranked player.

The Serbian won the eight-man tournament for the sixth time last year — matching Federer’s all-time mark — after Alcaraz withdrew because of injury.

“I haven’t lost a match since the Wimbledon final, so I’m really excited to hopefully finish off the season on a high,” Djokovic said.

“Clinching the year number one (ranking) and Davis Cup are the two biggest goals.”

Dimitrov, 32, was chasing his first title in Paris since winning the ATP Finals in 2017 but suffered a 10th straight loss to Djokovic in a meeting of the two oldest players in the top 20.

“I just want to say how grateful I am for this amazing week,” said Dimitrov, who was left in tears after losing in his second ever Masters final. He won his first in Cincinnati six years ago.

“It’s difficult to explain emotions. You want it. You know, it’s tough when it doesn’t happen,” he added.

“Only I know, in a way, without, like, feeling sorry for myself, what I’ve gone through the past months on and off the court.”

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