London: The battlelines for the singles semi-finals were drawn on Friday with six-time champion Roger Federer taking on third seed Alexander Zverev, while world number one Novak Djokovic will face Kevin Anderson in the Nitto ATP Finals at The O2, on Saturday.
Zverev became the youngest semi-finalist at the year-end event in nine years after defeating John Isner 7-6 (5), 6-4 earlier in the afternoon after which top seed Djokovic simply went through the motions in the evening’s dead rubber for a 7-6 (7), 6-2 win over Marin Cilic.
Not since Argentine Juan Martin del Potro reached the championship match on his debut in 2009 has a player as young as Zverev advanced beyond the round-robin stage.
But the German notched his second Group Guga Kuerten win after 81 minutes and join group winner Djokovic in Saturday’s semi-finals, where he will face six-time champion Federer.
First Zverev-Federer in 2018
The Swiss goes into the first semi-final with a 3-2 advantage over Zverev. But this will be their first meeting this year.
The 21-year-old is no stranger to playing Federer on a big stage, defeating him in the championship match at Montreal last year to capture his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.
A year earlier, he also beat the Swiss in the semi-finals at Halle, where Federer is now a record nine-time champion.
As a result of claiming a career-best 56th tour-level win of the season on Friday, Zverev became the first German to reach the last four at the Nitto ATP Finals since Rainer Schuettler in 2003 (where he lost to Andre Agassi).
Zverev, who has captured titles in Madrid, Munich and Washington, D.C. this year, is guaranteed to finish the season with the most tour-level victories in 2018.
While he has only missed out on reaching the last four at the season finale once, the Swiss has lost in the semi-finals four times.
Unique task for Federer
But this time, Federer has a unique task before him – the second seed is now just two wins away from capturing his 100th tour-level title, becoming just the second player to ever reach the feat after Jimmy Connors’ 109 titles.
In the other semi-final, Djokovic will meet Kevin Anderson in a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final. The 14-time Grand Slam champion from Serbia proved why he is the hot favourite to win this tournament after easing through the round-robin stage with three victories from his three matches without dropping a set.
Cilic tested him close in the opening set, but once Djokovic got into his rhythm there was no stopping him as he eased through in just over an hour to set up an engrossing battle against South African Anderson.
(Singles) Alexander Zverev bt John Isner 7-6 (5), 6-3; Novak Djokovic bt Marin Cilic 7-6 (7), 6-2.
(Doubles) Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo bt Oliver Marach/Mate Pavic 7-6 (4), 6-4; Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut bt Mike Bryan/Jack Sock 6-2, 6-2.
Order of Play (Saturday)
4 pm: Doubles semi-finals: Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares vs Mike Bryan/Jack Sock
6 pm: Singles semi-finals: Roger Federer vs Alexander Zverev
8 pm: Doubles semi-finals: Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut vs Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah
12 midnight" Singles semi-finals: Novak Djokovic vs Kevin Anderson
*All times UAE