Zverev sets up tasty Federer clash at ATP Finals
Send a link to a friend
[November 17, 2018]
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Alexander Zverev's
long-predicted arrival at the summit of men's tennis is taking too
long for some impatient observers but he took another significant
step forward by beating John Isner to reach the last four at the ATP
Finals on Friday.
His 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over the American meant the 21-year-old
became the first German since Rainer Schuettler in 2003 to reach the
semi-finals of the prestigious year-ending tournament and the
youngest since Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in 2009.
Zverev's second group victory earned him the runner-up spot behind
world number one Novak Djokovic and he will now aim his range of
baseline weapons at six-times champion Roger Federer in a Saturday
afternoon clash of the generations.
"It's obviously great getting to the semi-finals. But the tournament
isn't over," Zverev, 21, said. "There's only good opponents left.
There's only the best in the world.
"I don't want to really be thinking about 'I'm in the semi-finals
now, I'm satisfied'. That's not how I work."
The other semi-final will be between five-times champion Djokovic,
who beat Zverev comfortably earlier this week, and South African
debutant Kevin Anderson.
Djokovic completed group play later on Friday when he beat Marin
Cilic 7-6(7) 6-2 in a dead rubber to stay on course for the $2.7
million on offer for an undefeated champion.
Not easing up despite having sealed top spot in the group, Djokovic
won 31 consecutive points on serve during the match.
While not a Grand Slam tournament -- in which Zverev has yet to go
beyond the quarter-final stage -- the ATP Finals are regarded in
some quarters as a 'fifth' major.
The floppy-haired, gold chain-wearing Zverev looked every bit a real
contender for the game's biggest prizes as he fired down 140mph
serves and thrilled the packed crowd with spectacular groundstrokes,
especially from his lethal backhand.
One Hollywood effort early in the second set, struck for a clean
winner from almost in the front row seats, revealed the showman in
Zverev as he conducted the rapturous applause.
[to top of second column]
Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates winning his group stage match
against John Isner of the U.S. Action Images via Reuters/Tony
There have been questions about his mental toughness including last
year here in London when a loss to Jack Sock cost him a semi-final
berth and this year at the Australian Open when, seeded four, he
lost the fifth set of a third-round clash against fellow young gun
Chung Hyeon 6-0.
But with Andy Murray's former coach Ivan Lendl and strength
conditioner Jez Green now in his team, Zverev, younger brother of
experienced Tour player Mischa, appears to have developed a tougher
streak to handle the big moments.
He faced a set point at 5-6 in the first set and survived it with a
massive ace. Then, at 5-5 in the tiebreak with Isner throwing the
kitchen sink at a return, he produced a superbly improvised shot,
played on the half-volley from almost under his feet on the
baseline, to catch his opponent by surprise.
Isner, whose hopes of reaching the semi-finals required a
straight-sets win and a Djokovic victory over Cilic, netted a
forehand to drop the set and there was only ever likely to be one
outcome after that.
Despite knowing his hopes were over, Isner remained competitive in
the second set until dropping serve in the eighth game -- the only
break in a match of high-quality serving.
"If Sascha serves like that, he could have a very good shot at
winning (against Federer)," Isner said. "I do believe it will be a
very close match tomorrow between those two."
Zverev last played Federer a year ago, losing in three sets at the
O2 Arena, while Djokovic has beaten Anderson twice this year, most
notably in the Wimbledon final -- since when the Serb has been
almost unbeatable, winning 34 of his last 36 matches.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis/Ed Osmond/Ken
[© 2018 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2018 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.