In a competitive first set, Djokovic squandered a break but edged the ensuing tiebreak 7-5 to draw first blood. Fritz roared back into the contest but blinked while serving for the second. In another tiebreak that ensued, Djokovic squandered a match point on serve but fired a winner on his second to reach his eighth ATP Finals final.
Djokovic has had a stop-start campaign, missing a plethora of big tournaments, including the Australian Open and US Open, because of his COVID-19 vaccination. Nevertheless, he qualified as one of the top eight players for the season-ending ATP Finals.
Taking due cognizance of that, Fritz acknowledged in his post-match press conference that in Djokovic's absence, the field is a lot more open.
"It's been a crazy year. I think my takeaways are that when Novak has played, he's been the best player. There's no doubt about that. When he hasn't played, which is a lot of the year, we've seen a lot of different results because when you take him out of the equation, I think everybody else playing is extremely close in level," Fritz said.
The American added:
"I think when you, like, take Novak out of the equation, I think there's 15 to 20 people that can all beat each other on any given day given the circumstances. That's the reason for a lot of these different results, different people winning. It's just how it happens."
While Fritz will end the year in the top ten, Djokovic could rise to fifth with an unbeaten run in Turin. He awaits the winner of Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev for a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title.
"I've never lost a match and immediately had to just, like, lock in straight back to it" - Taylor Fritz on ATP Finals experience after loss to Novak Djokovic
Taylor Fritz was one of two debutants at the 2022 ATP Finals. Speaking about his experience of the competition's unique round-robin format, Fritz said:
"Honestly, I don't know. I think the event's amazing. I like that you can lose a match and still have the opportunity to come back and improve. It's a whole different thing. I've never lost a match and then immediately had to just, like, lock in straight back to it, do everything after the match the same as I would if I had won because I have to get ready to play again."
The American started his campaign by beating Rafael Nadal before losing to Casper Ruud. In a winner-takes-all showdown, he beat Felix Auger-Aliassime to make the last four.