Djokovic defeats Zverev to snag final semis spot in London

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Novak Djokovic fights past Alexander Zverev on Friday afternoon to earn the second semifinal spot out of Group Tokyo 1970. Djokovic will run into Dominic Thiem during semi-final action on Saturday.

Nitto ATP Finals, Group Tokyo 1970

Djokovic d. Zverev 6-3, 7-6(4)

  • Key info: It will be Djokovic vs. Dominic Thiem in the semis, while Daniil Medvedev goes up against Rafael Nadal.
  • You will also learn: Djokovic, who has won this event four times, lost to Thiem last year in London.
  • Why you should read this story: Zverev had 19 more winners than errors…and still lost in straight sets.

The last spot in the semis of the Nitto ATP Finals goes to Novak Djokovic after the world No 1 held off Alexander Zverev in a tight two-setter on Friday afternoon. Djokovic needed one hour and 36 minutes to set up a showdown against Group London 2020 winner Dominic Thiem.

“I felt great,” the Serb assured. “I just managed to find the right shots at the right time. It was really anybody’s game for most of the match.”

Tough start for Zverev

A nightmare start for Zverev saw him win only two points in the first three games. The worst part of that stretch came when the German double-faulted on break point in the second game. Djokovic was quick to seize a 3-0 lead, which proved to be too much to overcome for his opponent. Zverev started to settle down and sink his teeth into the match, but he never managed to get back on serve in the opener. The world No 7 had a half chance at 30-30 on the ninth game only to see Djokovic come up with the goods on serve when it mattered most to seal the set in style.

Second set

Zverev had a golden chance to get back on track in the fourth game of set two, but two break-point opportunities went by the wayside. That marked the continuation of a frustrating trend for the 23-year-old, who had also missed two break points late in the opening frame of play. It briefly looked like Zverev would be unable to shake off that disappointment, but he did well do fight off two break points in the next game and hold for 3-2.

Eventually a tiebreaker had to decide things, and it was Zverev who got off to a fast start by seizing a mini-break for 2-0. However, the rest of the way it was all Djokovic — who won seven of the next nine points. As a result, Zverev took a loss even though he finished with 38 winners compared to only 19 unforced errors. He also struck 27 winners in the second set alone to Djokovic’s seven, but is still wasn’t enough to take down the top seed.

The four-time Nitto ATP Finals champion will now try to avenge last year’s round-robin loss to Thiem in a thrilling three-setter.

“Earlier in his career he played his best on clay,” Djokovic said of the Austrian, “but being one of the hardest workers on tour — one of the most dedicated players — he found his A game on other surfaces…. I lost to him last year in the group stage; it was a thriller — 7-6 in the third set. You know, I have lots of respect for Dominic, his game, his work ethic, Nico Massu, all his team, very nice people and they are very dedicated and humble. Every time we got to play I think in the last three, four matches, [there were] some marathon, thrilling encounters…five-setter in the finals of Australian Open earlier this year.”

It will be Daniil Medvedev vs. Rafael Nadal in the other semi-final, as every one of the top four seeds has advanced.

Group Tokyo 1970 standings

Player | Record | Sets | Games 

Medvedev | 2-0 | 4-0 | 24-13 (qualified for semis as group winner)
Djokovic | 2-1 | 4-2 | 31-26 (qualified for semis as group runner-up)
Zverev | 1-2 | 2-5 | 32-37 (eliminated)
Schwartzman | 0-2 | 1-4 | 17-28 (eliminated)

Nitto ATP Finals competition format

  • Each players plays every other player in their group once.
  • The top player in Group Tokyo 1970 will play the runner-up from Group London 2020 in the semi-final, and vice versa.
  • The standings in the table are decided first by greatest number of wins.
  • Then it takes into account the greatest number of matches played (a 2-1 win-loss record beats a 2-0 win-loss record).
  • After that it comes down to head-to-head results if two players are tied.
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