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Djokovic, Nadal showdown still on

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London’s farewell edition of the ATP Finals could still have its dream climax: world number one Novak Djokovic against Rafa Nadal.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against Alexander Zverev of Germany during their group stage match at the ATP Finals tennis tournament in London, Britain, 20 November 2020. Photo: EPA/Andy Rain

By Martyn Herman

LONDON – London’s farewell edition of the ATP Finals could still have its dream climax after world number one Novak Djokovic beat Alexander Zverev 6-3 7-6(4) to seal a last-four spot on Friday.

Defeat by Daniil Medvedev had left the five-time champion needing to beat Germany’s Zverev to avoid a group stage exit and he obliged with a relatively comfortable win.

Djokovic will finish second in the Tokyo Group, named after the first edition of the season-ending tournament 50 years ago, and with Spanish world number two Rafa Nadal finishing second in the London Group, they have avoided a semi-final clash.

The 33-year-old Serb will face US Open champion Dominic Thiem in Saturday’s semi-final, when Nadal plays Medvedev.

Sunday’s final will end the tournament’s 12-year stay in London before it re-locates to Turin.

Djokovic was soundly beaten by Zverev in the 2018 final, a match played out in an electrifying atmosphere in front of 18,000 fans. This time the arena was empty because of the Covid-19 lockdown, a surreal backdrop for a match with so much riding on it for both men.

Despite the flat feel, Djokovic was quickly into game-mode and when world number seven Zverev double-faulted to drop serve in his first service game he seized control.

Novak Djokovic (right) of Serbia hugs Alexander Zverev of Germany after winning their group stage match at the ATP Finals tennis tournament in London, Britain, 20 November 2020. Photo: EPA/Andy Rain

Zverev dug in his heels in the second set but missed a chance for an early break before recovering from a couple of double faults to fend off a break point in the following game.

Djokovic looked frustrated at times and twice had to hold serve to stay in the set.

The 17-time Grad Slam champion raised the intensity level in the tiebreak, edging 5-3 ahead with a fizzing backhand pass. He brought up two match points with a hefty first serve before pressurising Zverev into an error to complete victory.

Djokovic is bidding to equal Roger Federer’s record of six ATP Finals titles, while Nadal seeks a first.

Reuters