Novak Djokovic and debutante Dominic Thiem were winners on Tuesday at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, where the Serb secured a spot in the semifinals to finish first place in the Ivan Lendl group while Thiem kept his hopes alive.
Djokovic was pressed to the limit by big-serving Milos Raonic, edging the Canuck 7-6(6), 7-6(5).
“It was a very close match,” said Djokovic. “I think very few points separated us tonight. It really could have gone either way. I was fortunate to get through the first set tie-break. I was down very early in both tie-breaks tonight. But I just managed to stay committed and put pressure on his second serves.”
Raonic held leads in both tiebreakers but couldn’t convert.
“I believe all the break points, except for maybe the set point at the end, he put in a first serve every single time,” Raonic said. “I believe when he had his break points, I didn’t put in one. I think it’s those little things that make a difference.
“Those moments he stepped up and played well. I just maybe hesitated a little bit too much. But overall I created a lot of opportunities. I did a lot of good things. A lot of things to be proud of.”
Djokovic improved to 2-0 in round robin play while Raonic dropped to 1-1 and has now lost all eight meetings with the Serb, winning just one set. Djokovic is attempting to win the title and surpass Andy Murray for the coveted year-end No. 1 ranking.
Raonic will next play Thiem with a semifinal berth on the line. The 25-year-old Canadian is now 51-16 in 2016.
Thiem continued his breakout year by beating Gael Monfils 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 to improve to 1-1 in round robin play, eliminating the Frenchman’s hopes of reaching the semifinals as he dropped to 0-2 in round robin play.
The 23-year-old year-end championships debutant broke fellow London debut-er Monfils at 5-4 in the third set.
“I was trying to stay tough in the third set but at the end, of course, he helped me a little bit with the three double faults,” Thiem said of the flighty Monfils. “But I’m very happy with the win. This tournament, the big crowd, gives me and probably all the players a lot of energy.”
Thiem improved his record in deciding sets this season to a tour-leading 22-3.
On court Wednesday in London will be (1) Andy Murray vs. (5) Kei Nishikori and (3) Stan Wawrinka vs. (7) Marin Cilic.
Murray leads Nishikori 7-2 however fell to the Japanese in the US Open quarterfinals two months ago. “I would say this is probably his best year that he’s had on the tour,” Murray said of Nishikori. “He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s been playing very well the last few months especially.”
Added Nishikori on the contest, “This year we played three, four times. I had a tough loss in Rio. But US Open and Davis Cup, we played, you know, some good match. I feel more chance, you know, to win the match against Andy. Obviously it’s the toughest match maybe in this group. Yeah, for sure I have to play well and play hundred percent to beat Andy.”
Wawrinka has won the last six against Cilic to hold a 10-2 advantage over the Croat.
Murray and Nishikori are the only players who can qualify for the semifinals on Wednesday:
– Murray qualifies if he defeats Nishikori and Cilic defeats Wawrinka
– Murray also qualifies if he defeats Nishikori in 2 sets and Wawrinka defeats Cilic in 3 sets
– Nishikori qualifies if he defeats Murray and Wawrinka defeats Cilic
– Nishikori also qualifies if he defeats Murray in 2 sets and Cilic defeats Wawrinka in 3 sets
WEDNESDAY ATP FINALS SCHEDULE
 H. Kontinen (FIN) / J. Peers (AUS) v  R Klaasen (RSA) / R Ram (USA)
ANDY MURRAY  (GBR) v KEI NISHIKORI  (JPN)
 P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA) v  F. Lopez (ESP) / M. Lopez (ESP)
STAN WAWRINKA  (SUI) v MARIN CILIC  (CRO)
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