World number one Novak Djokovic took a further step towards becoming the first player to retain his Paris Masters title when he saw off Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-3 on Saturday to set up a final with Milos Raonic.
Canadian seventh seed Raonic earlier qualified for Sunday’s showpiece match, his second at Masters level, by downing Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych 6-3 3-6 7-5.
“The final tomorrow, it’s just about really buckling down, hoping to play another great match, and making the most of the opportunity ahead,” said Raonic.
Serbian Djokovic, who is on a 26-match winning streak indoors, was never threatened by Nishikori, who beat him at the U.S. Open but lacked energy after battling for almost three hours until late with David Ferrer in the last eight on Friday.
Djokovic extended his advantage over Roger Federer in the battle for the year-end number one spot to 910 points.
He raced to a 4-1 lead and never looked back, appearing effortlessly to send his opponent chasing the ball to every corner of the court.
Following an early exchange of breaks, Djokovic stole Nishikori’s serve again in the sixth game of the second set and it proved enough.
On a surface that keeps changing over the years, no player has retained their title at Bercy in a tournament held near the end of an energy-sapping season.
It will be followed from November 9-16 by the ATP World Tour Finals in London, for which Nishikori and Raonic qualified on Friday.
The big-serving Raonic, runner-up at the Montreal Masters last year, followed up his quarter-final defeat of second seed Federer by beating Berdych, the 2005 Paris champion.
After firing down 21 aces against Federer, Raonic had to wait until the fifth game to serve his first on Saturday but by that time he had already broken Berdych for a 3-1 lead.
Although Berdych read his serve pretty well, Raonic held and bagged the opening set when his opponent’s sliced backhand sailed long.
Berdych, however, broke in the second game of the second set as Raonic netted a backhand, before holding serve to level the tie.
The third set was a much more balanced affair until Raonic set up the first couple of break points, which were also match points.
He needed only one, wrapping it up when Berdych netted a backhand before smashing his racket on the ground in frustration, having made four consecutive unforced errors, including two straight double faults, in an awful game.
“I just totally messed it up with the last game,” said Berdych. It was definitely the worst game I ever played here in this tournament this year.”
Raonic added: “In a very uncharacteristic way, he sort of just gave me a big opening, and I did good enough to make the most of it.”