There will no dream final between greats Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the title match of the ATP Finals on Sunday in London. That’s because earlier today in the semifinals, Alexander Zverev stunned the Swiss 7-5, 7-6(5) to collect one of his best career wins.
While the score was close, Zverev was in control for much of the match. Federer had an early break point in the second then held off a 3-4, 0-30 deficit on serve later in the set. Otherwise, Zverev was too strong off the ground on the slower indoor surface.
“Against Roger, you have to be the one that is aggressive,” Zverev said. “You have to kind of take the time away from him, otherwise he’s not going to lose the match, especially in a big match, in a big tournament, where he already found his rhythm. That’s what I tried to do. It worked out well.”
Federer, 16 years older than Zverev, was seeking a 7th career ATP Finals title and a 100th overall, two milestones that will have to wait.
“I didn’t think I was hitting my spots very well for the majority of the match,” admitted Federer. “I think it came towards the end, which helped me to make it competitive and close at the very end. I think I could have done better on returning Sascha’s first serves, as well, in spells. I thought especially on his first serve in the beginning I struggled. I got into a better rhythm after that. Obviously, having the break and giving it back again, that was disappointing. It reminded me a little bit of the Nishikori situation.
“Sometimes margins are slim, opportunities are rare. It’s a point here and there that maybe didn’t go my way. Maybe also I didn’t push enough or I didn’t have enough today to make the difference, to be honest. I was always running after the score most of the time. Over time it catches you, obviously.”
Despite the disappointing finish, Federer was pleased with his 2018 season.
“I’m very proud that at 37, I’m still so competitive and so happy playing tennis,” said Federer. “From that standpoint, I mean, as disappointed as I might be about this match, if I take a step back, I’m actually very happy about the season. It’s been an historic season in some ways. Got back to World No. 1. For me, that was a huge moment in my life, to be honest, in my career because I never thought I would get there again.”
Djokovic showed absolutely no mercy in his Wimbledon final rematch against Kevin Anderson, destroying the South African 6-2, 6-2.
“I think it was the best match I’ve played so far this week,” said Djokovic. “It came at the right time.
“Kevin has been playing great tennis this week. He lost his serve in the first game which was big because he relies so much on his serve. I tried to win as many points on his second serve as possible. It worked very well.
“I’m very happy to reach the final.”
Djokovic, who hasn’t dropped serve all week, never faced a break point and lost just seven point on his serve all afternoon.
“I would have loved to have done better the past two matches because I got off to such a good start,” said Anderson. “Right now, obviously it’s very disappointing, upsetting not being able to play a little bit better today… But finishing the year at my career-best [ATP] ranking, there’s been a lot of positives. As a team, we’ll look for ways to improve because I still think there’s room for improvement, there’s still a lot of objectives that I’ve set for myself for next year.”
Djokovic already beat Zverev during the round robin earlier in the week and leads the German 2-1.
“Novak right now is the best player in the world,” said Zverev. “It’s very tough to beat him. He’s barely lost a match in the last six months. He’s playing amazing tennis. You have to play your best game to even have a chance.”
Zverev will have to accomplish the rare feat of beating the top two seeds and Federer then Djokovic on consecutive days at the ATP Finals.
Djokovic is seeking a 73rd title, 5th of the year. Zverev is bidding for his 10th title, 4th of his 2018 season.
SUNDAY ATP FINALS LONDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court 3:30 Pm
F (8) Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut v (5) Mike Bryan/Jack Sock
Not Before 6:00 Pm
F (1) Novak Djokovic v (3) Alexander Zverev
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