Novak Djokovic on Friday out-battled Alexander Zverev to qualify for the last four at the ATP Finals, staying on track to match Roger Federer’s record of six titles at the end-of-season event.
The Serbian top seed, who was beaten comprehensively by Daniil Medvedev in his second round-robin match, was again below his best in London, but did enough to win 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
In the evening match at the elite eight-man event, which was a dead rubber, Russian fourth seed Medvedev beat debutant Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3.
In a repeat of the 2018 championship match, Djokovic saved all three break points he faced to gain revenge against the German, and faces Group London 2020 winner Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals, with that match to begin shortly after press time last night.
Following that match, Medvedev, who topped Group Tokyo 1970, was to play Spanish second seed Rafael Nadal in the other last-four clash at the empty O2 Arena in London.
The group-stage results mean the four top-ranked players in the world were all involved in yesterday’s semis.
Djokovic has already tied Pete Sampras’ record mark of six year-end No. 1 finishes and is eyeing Federer’s record at the season finale.
The top seed broke Zverev at the first time of asking and raced into a 3-0 lead, threatening to run away with the match.
The 33-year-old looked focused after his uncharacteristic mauling by Medvedev, serving himself out of trouble when he found himself trailing 15-40 in the seventh game.
That proved to be the last chance for Zverev in the set and 17-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic hammered a backhand winner down the line to take it 6-3.
Djokovic handed Zverev a break point in the fourth game of the second set after double-faulting, but the German could not capitalize.
The 23-year-old fifth seed saved two break points on his serve in the following game, letting out a roar as he kept his nose in front. The set went to a tie-break. Zverev earned an early mini-break, but Djokovic leveled and the pressure was back on the German, who faltered to hand the Serbian victory.
Djokovic said he had managed to find the right shots at the right moments, in contrast to his performance against Medvedev.
Medvedev’s victory against the Argentine eighth seed gave him three wins out of three in the group stage — a far cry from his debut last year, when he lost all three matches.
The Russian, who is on a hot streak after winning the Paris Masters earlier this month, found some astonishing angles in a breathtaking display of hitting.
The giant Medvedev, 28cm taller than Schwartzman, who stands just 170cm, broke twice in the first set and once in the second.
“It’s always good to stay undefeated for the confidence,” he said. “I wanted to win the match, so really happy that I’ve done it. I think I was serving pretty good today, so that helped me a lot.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic said that tennis authorities could adopt clearer policies on domestic abuse in light of allegations made against Zverev.
The world No. 1 offered his support to Zverev, who has repeatedly denied allegations made against him by Olga Sharypova.
In an interview with Racquet Magazine, Sharypova said that Zverev was emotionally and physically abusive to her when she was his girlfriend.
She also said that she does not intend to press charges against the German.
“We don’t know what happened truly. I mean, we are going to find out obviously,” Djokovic told reporters after his win on Friday. “I have known Sascha for a very long time since he was very young. I always had a great relationship with him. Very nice guy. I have a lot of respect for him, his family.”
“So I was sad to hear and to know he’s going through something like this. I don’t know what happened. Of course, I mean, obviously I’m not supporting any kind of violence. So we will have to wait and see,” he said.
Zverev has described the allegations as “unfounded and untrue,” and without any legal investigation the men’s ATP Tour would be unlikely to intervene.
The ATP said that it condemned “any form of violence or abuse”.
“In circumstances where allegations of violence or abuse are made against any member of the Tour, legal authorities investigate and due process, we then review the outcome and decide the appropriate course of action,” the governing body of men’s tennis said in a statement last week.
World No. 7 Zverev said that he had nothing to hide.
“The players know what’s going on,” the 23-year-old told reporters on Friday.
“What else can I say? I have said everything that I can. It’s very unfortunate that these kind of false allegations can put such damage and put the attention away from the sport, but it’s the world we live in right now unfortunately,” he said.
“There is nothing more that I can do,” he said.
Red Bull team chief Christian Horner has welcomed Ferrari’s U-turn to support a Formula One engine freeze from 2022. The move gives Red Bull a chance to continue using Honda power after the Japanese supplier exits next year. Speaking ahead of yesterday’s final practice for today’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Horner said that Ferrari’s decision was encouraging for F1 and everyone involved in the business end of the sport. “It’s positive news,” he said. “I think all the manufacturers, all the CEOs of the automotive industry, they all recognize the investment and cost of these engines, particularly with the new technology coming for 2026,
‘ONE LAST APPLAUSE’: An homage of cheers resounded through Buenos Aires on Wednesday night, while earlier a contingent met at the Obelisk to remember their hero Stunned Argentines were on Wednesday plunged into grief by the death of the country’s favorite son Diego Maradona, a sublimely gifted sporting hero they saw as “the most human of gods.” The news fell like a hammer blow to a nation beaten down by months of economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, but one where soccer is seen as a panacea for all ills. At 10pm, Buenos Aires exploded in cheers, horns, sirens and lights for the man who famously wore the No. 10, after a viral social media message called for “one last applause.” The homage resounded throughout the night in all
Taiwan Steel on Sunday celebrated with the Taiwan Football Premier League trophy, despite a 3-1 loss in their final match of the season, while Taipower claimed second place and Tatung’s Ange Samuel scored on a breakaway to claim the Golden Boot with 20 goals. Ahead of all four of Sunday’s matches players, coaches and fans observed a minute’s silence prior to kickoff in honor of Argentine great Diego Maradona, who died aged 60 on Wednesday last week, following a directive received from FIFA. Already assured the title, Taiwan Steel manager Lo Chi-chong fielded a second-string team against defending champions Tatung in Taoyuan. Lo
Argentina’s Pablo Matera yesterday said that he was “deeply ashamed” as he was stripped of the captaincy and suspended along with two other players over messages he wrote on Twitter in 2011 to 2013. Just weeks after leading the Pumas to their first win over the All Blacks, the Argentina Rugby Union “revoked” Matera’s captaincy and suspended him, along with lock Guido Petti and hooker Santiago Socino. “The Argentina Rugby Union forcefully rejects the discriminatory and xenophobic comments published by members of the Pumas squad on social media,” a statement read. In the tweets, since deleted, Matera spoke of “running over blacks” with