Zverev advances to semis; Nadal ousted, despite win

THE YOUNG GUYS::Rafael Nadal being eliminated means only one of the Big Three — Roger Federer — made the semi-finals, as Novak Djokovic was eliminated on Thursday


Sun, Nov 17, 2019 - Page 11

Defending champion Alexander Zverev on Friday secured the last semi-final spot at the ATP Finals, eliminating Rafael Nadal in the process.

Zverev beat Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 7-6 (4) at London’s O2 Arena to finish second behind Stefanos Tsitsipas in the group and set up a semi-final against Dominic Thiem.

Earlier, Nadal stayed in contention by rallying to beat Tsitsipas 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5 for his second win of the round-robin stage.

However, Zverev’s win left him, Nadal and Tsitispas with identical 2-1 records — with the top-ranked Spaniard eliminated based on the tournament’s tiebreaker rules.

It means that only one of tennis’ Big Three made the semi-finals, as Novak Djokovic was also eliminated on Thursday. Tsitsipas is to face six-time champion Roger Federer in the first semi-final today.

“The young guys have been playing much better tennis than they were maybe last year,” Zverev said. “Nobody expected [Nadal] to be out from our group. Our group was very, very difficult, and for me and Stefanos to qualify, I don’t think a lot of people would have picked [that].”

Medvedev (0-3) had only pride to play for against Zverev and was broken in the opening game.

The Russian largely held his own after that, but could not force a single break point and double-faulted to go 5-3 down in the second-set tiebreaker.

Zverev converted his first match point with an ace.

The seventh-ranked German had a major breakthrough in winning last year’s tournament, beating Federer in the semi-finals and Djokovic in the final.

Zverev is to face Thiem, who impressed by beating those same two players in the group phase this week.

“He’s playing unbelievable tennis, and it’s going to be a difficult match,” Zverev said. “Honestly, I’m just happy to be in the semis, and from here on we’ll just see how it goes.”

Tsitsipas had already secured a semi-final spot by winning his opening two matches, but still pushed Nadal to the wire in a match that lasted nearly three hours.

That effort could cost him against Federer, who needed only 1 hour, 13 minutes to beat Novak Djokovic in his final group-stage match on Thursday and spent Friday resting.

However, at 21, Tsitsipas is 17 years younger than Federer, and said he felt confident that he would recover quickly.

After saving a match point at 5-1 down in the third set against Medvedev on Wednesday before rallying to win, Nadal’s comeback was not quite as dramatic this time.

He never faced a break point in the match, but lost the last three points of the first-set tiebreaker to hand Tsitsipas the lead.

After the match, Nadal was presented with a trophy on court for having secured the year-end No. 1 ranking.

Djokovic’s chances of overtaking him ended when he was eliminated with the loss to Federer.

It is the fifth time that the 19-time Grand Slam winner ends the year atop the rankings, tied for second on the all-time list with Djokovic, Federer and Jimmy Connors. Pete Sampras did it six times.

At 33, Nadal is the oldest man to finish the year as No. 1.

“After all the things that I went through in my career in terms of injuries, I never thought that at the age of 33 1/2, I would have this trophy in my hands again,” Nadal said.