World number one Novak Djokovic produced a rock-solid performance to dismantle the challenge of German firebrand Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals, while Roger Federer kept his hopes alive with an easy win over Dominic Thiem.
Djokovic, 10 years older than Zverev, was made to work hard in an absorbing first set but the latter’s challenge crumbled at the O2 Arena as Djokovic won 6-4 6-1 to move within sight of the semi-finals.
Five-times champion Djokovic, who will end the year as world number one for the fifth time in his career after a storming second half of the season, leads the Gustavo Kuerten group with two wins and is yet to drop a set.
“I don’t think it was breathtaking tennis from both of us but a win is a win,” Djokovic, who hit only three winners in the first set compared to Zverev’s 15, said on court.
“I started to play better in the second set and he was making a lot of unforced errors, which helped me win.”
All seven round-robin matches played so far this week have been won in straight sets, but for a while it appeared as though the crowd would be given full value for their ticket.
The 21-year-old Zverev, who has a Tour-leading 55 match wins this year, went toe-to-toe with Djokovic from the baseline and looked to have the firepower to worry his opponent.
Djokovic netted a routine forehand when serving at 4-4 30-30, offering Zverev a break point that he did not convert.
Djokovic then double-faulted to give Zverev another chance to serve for the set but this time the German went just wide with an attempted lob after the Serb ventured into the net.
The net game always looked dangerous for Zverev and so it proved as he double-faulted to concede the set.
Zverev looked deflated and despite holding serve for 1-1 he offered no more resistance as Djokovic won five games in a row to seal his 33rd win in his last 35 matches.
His final group match is against Cilic while Zverev will hope to bounce back against Isner.
On Tuesday night, Six-time champion Roger Federer put a troubled start to his 16th ATP Finals behind him as he outclassed Thiem 6-2 6-3.
The 37-year-old Swiss played poorly in defeat against Kei Nishikori on Sunday and then skipped practice on Monday.
Comments made by French player Julien Benneteau to a radio station suggesting Federer is given preferential treatment by tournament organisers, particular in Grand Slams, also threatened to disturb his week at the O2 Arena.
He responded with a smooth demolition of Austrian Thiem and then avoided being drawn into a row over Benneteau’s reported comments, saying they had been taken out of context.
“I don’t feel like I need to comment on this. I’d rather put it to rest rather than adding to it so you guys got something to write about,” he told a news conference.
He was then asked whether his agent Tony Godsick had ever demanded that Federer only be scheduled on Arthur Ashe court at the US Open — a claim reportedly made by Benneteau in an interview with RMC radio.
“I get asked, would you like to play Monday or Tuesday sometimes. Sometimes I get asked, ‘do you want to play day or night?’ Sometimes they go ask the agent. Sometimes they ask me, you know, ‘Asia wants you to play at night’,” Federer said.
“Yes, sometimes we have our say. But I asked to play Monday at the US Open. I played Tuesday night. It’s all good. Sometimes I get help, sometimes I don’t.
“But a lot of the facts are not right, just to be clear there, from what I heard.”
Federer was more concerned with the way he rediscovered his form to convincingly beat Thiem, admitting his head had not been right in a straight sets defeat by Nishikori.
“I’ll do the same tomorrow because it worked,” Federer said of deciding not to practise on Monday.”
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