For the first time since 2004, the Top 4 in the ATP Rankings have reached the semifinals at the ATP Finals. The last of the four spots was decided Friday on the final day of the round robin in London where Novak Djokovic played one on his best matches topping 2018 champion Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6(4).
Djokovic got a break thanks to an ill-timed double fault from Zverev early in the first, then held on to his own serve saving all three break points faced to win a high quality affair against the German who hammered 12 aces to 6 double faults.
”I felt great. Early in the first set he had a couple of break point chances. I managed to serve well in the important moments and contrary to the last match against Daniil, I just managed to find the right shots at the right time,” said Djokovic. “Sascha, I have tremendous respect for him. He’s a great player, huge serve. Obviously not easy to return the 140 miles per hour first serves. Sometimes just have to pick your side, block, hope you can be in the exchanges in the rallies from the back of the court.
“It was really anybody’s game, I think, for most of the match. In the tie-break I just read his approach from 4-3, served well when I needed to to close out the match.”
Zverev finished the year 1-2 in the Tokyo Group, but came on strong the last few months of the year including the US Open final.
“It was a great year. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of big matches,” Zverev said. “”I lost semifinals in Australia, which I could have won. I lost the final of the US Open which I should have won, kind of. Final in Paris-Bercy. This match here.
“A lot of tough matches, a lot of tough moments, but a good year for me. A lot to build on for next year.”
Djokovic now completes an incredible final four line-up in London featuring the Top 4 in the world meeting. The World No. 1 will now face No. 3 Dominic Thiem tomorrow and then it will be No. 2 Rafael Nadal against No. 4 Daniil Medvedev.
Djokovic, who reached his ninth semifinal at the event, has won seven from 11 against Thiem. But the Austrian has won two of their last three and pushed Djokovic to the brink in the Australian Open final.
”Obviously earlier in his career played his best on clay, but of course being one of the hardest workers on the Tour and most dedicated players, Dominic found his ‘A’ game on all other surfaces,” said Djokovic. “His first Slam came on hard courts earlier this year in New York. I played him last year here and lost 7-6 in the third set. It was really a thrilling match. Hopefully we can have another great match, but hopefully this time with another outcome.”
In the late match, Daniil Medvedev showed no mercy toward Diego Schwartzman. The Russian had already earned his spot on Saturday against Nadal, but wasn’t ready to take his foot off the pedal and give the Argentine his first win at the event.
While Medvedev maybe wasn’t invested 100% in the contest, he blew past Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3 to win his eighth straight match.
“I was playing great in the two previous matches. I think it is always good to stay undefeated for the confidence. I wanted to win the match, so I am really happy that I have done it,” said Medvedev who went 0-3 last year at the ATP Finals. “I was serving really good today, so that helped me a lot throughout all the match.”
The 24-year-old Russian will now try to earn his first career win against Nadal who he’s lost to all three prior meetings.
“I like playing all of the Three,” said Medvedev. “When I was so young, just starting to hold the racquet and just started to be interested in tennis – because actually I was not watching it when I was four or five – I started to see Grand Slams.
“Basically when I started playing it, Roger was already there, I think, winning almost everything. Then Rafa came to make his mark, and then Novak came to try to disturb them all the time.
“So always great to play against them. I’m really looking forward to the match, feeling confident. I think Rafa is also.”
A year ago Medvedev led Nadal 5-1 in the third set and eventually had a match point in the ATP Finals round robin before the Spaniard surged back.
The last time the Top 4 made the semifinals at this event was 16 years ago in 2004 when Roger Federer beating Lleyton Hewitt in the final. Andy Roddick and Marat Safin were in the semifinals.
Winners on Saturday will pick up an additional $402K to their round-robin earnings. Plus another 400 ATP Ranking points.
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