London | Zverev claims last semi-final slot
Tim Henman has backed Roger Federer to seal a magnificent seven ATP Finals titles.
We’re in the semi-finals now and it doesn’t get any easier from here. I’m going to have to play my best tennis to have a chance Alexander Zverev
The former British No.1 witnessed Federer’s demolition of Novak Djokovic at the 02 on Thursday night.
And he admitted to being “borderline naïve” in writing off the evergreen 38-year-old, who meets Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, 21, in a clash of the generations on Saturday for a place in the championship decider.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion had been lined up for a re-match with great rival Rafa Nadal, who overcame Tsitsipas on Friday afternoon.
But a straight-sets victory for defending champion Alexander Zverev over debuting Russian Daniil Medvedev in the evening knocked the Spaniard out of the competition as the German victor lined up a last-four showdown against Dominic Thiem.
Henman, a former world No.4, said: “Is Roger favourite? Yeah, I think he probably is. It was an amazing performance (against Djokovic). I was sort of disappointed in myself almost that we sit in the commentary box and try and write him off.
“On an indoor court that’s playing a bit quick, that’s borderline naïve. The way he played, serving the quality, the consistency – he was up six or seven miles per hour on speed. I think it was hotter in there, made it a bit quicker.
“Every time he got the chance to pull the trigger from the baseline, he did. And he didn’t make many unforced errors. One of his very best performances I have seen. Now getting through to the semis he takes huge confidence from that.
“What I like about this year is that in previous years we have seen good tennis, but it has been quite predictable. You look at the results that we have had. First day we had Tsitsipas, who had never beaten Medvedev, Zverev had never beaten Nadal. They were up sets. Thiem playing as well as he did beating Federer and Djokovic. Still Djokovic I thought was the favourite and Federer plays like that. Nadal 5-1 down against Medvedev. It has been brilliant.”
Zverev, 22, overcame Medvedev 6-4 7-6(4) to finish second in his group. The Russian was knocked out when he lost the first set but made a fist of the second. Had Medvedev won, Nadal would have gone through to meet Federer.
The German seventh seed, who now leads Medvedev 5-1 in their head-to-heads said: “The O2 is the most special arena for me. It’s where I play my best tennis. The atmosphere here is something we don’t play in anywhere else in the world. It’s so special to us.
“I’ve still got to improve. We’re in the semi-finals now and it doesn’t get any easier from here. I’m going to have to play my best tennis to have a chance.”
Zverev, despite knowing that victory would guarantee him a semi spot, looked the epitomy of calm. He broke the Russian in the opening game, maintained a decent service game and mixed up his shots to down his opponent.
Medvedev, who beat Zverev in Shanghai recently, was asked what his opponent did differently.
The 23-year-old said with a smile: “He chose a different court probably 20 times faster!”
He added: “I don’t think there was another tournament where I was so bad on return during the whole year. That’s where the result came from. In the first game I probably lost my concentration, maybe didn’t get as well in the match as I could. He didn’t have that many chances on return, either. Funny, tennis.”