ATP Finals: Zverev denies Djokovic another chance to earn a big title

For the second time this year, Alexander Zverev has denied Novak Djokovic the chance to play for a big trophy.

Following up his win over the top-ranked player in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics, Zverev beat Djokovic 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3 at the same stage of the ATP Finals on Saturday.

โ€œEvery time we play against each other, itโ€™s very high level,โ€ Zverev said. โ€œThis year we played each other five times. … Every time we played for multiple hours, and it was very physical.โ€

The result means Djokovic canโ€™t match Roger Federerโ€™s record of six titles at the season-ending event for the top eight players. At least not this year.

Instead, Zverev will play second-ranked Daniil Medvedev in Sundayโ€™s final.

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โ€œHeโ€™s the greatest player of all time, and I think people forget that sometimes,โ€ Zverev said of Djokovic, who shares the record of 20 Grand Slam titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Medvedev, the U.S. Open champion, beat first-time qualifier Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-2 earlier as he seeks to defend his title in the first edition of the tournament in Turin โ€” after 12 years in London.

Medvedev has won his last five meetings with Zverev, including a round-robin match earlier this week that was decided in a third-set tiebreaker.

Zverev won this event in 2018.

Djokovic committed a series of uncharacteristic baseline errors to hand Zverev the decisive break midway through the third set.

Zverev then held his nerve, saving a breakpoint, before serving a slicing ace down the T on his first match point.

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โ€œI just had the one very bad game in the third set โ€” three forehand, one backhand unforced errors, really from pretty easy position,โ€ Djokovic said.

The tone of the match, though, was set in the first set, after Zverev saved a set point at 4-5.

In the first-set tiebreaker, a challenge from Zverev forced Djokovic to hit a second serve and resulted in a double fault. Then a backhand drop shot from Djokovic clipped the net and hopped over, enabling Zverev time to run it down and reply with a sharply angled forehand cross-court winner.

At 5-4 in the tiebreaker, Zverev crushed a backhand winner up the line to conclude a long rally, then produced a big serve out wide on his first set point that Djokovic couldnโ€™t return.

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In September at the U.S. Open, Medvedev ended Djokovicโ€™s bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam by beating the Serb in the final to lift his first trophy at a major.

Dictating play from the start against Ruud, Medvedev improved to 9-0 at the ATP Finals since going 0-3 in his 2019 debut.

Medvedev, who didnโ€™t face a single breakpoint and won 11 of 15 points at the net, finished it off with a perfectly executed serve and volley on his first match point.

Ruud, who also lost to Djokovic in straight sets in his opening round-robin match, said that getting beat soundly by the top two players “makes me want to seek revenge and become a better player for the next year.โ€

The doubles final will feature Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury against Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

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