Roger Fed­erer beats Alexan­der Zverev to reach ATP World Tour Fi­nals semis

The Guardian Australia - - Sport - Kevin Mitchell at the O2 Arena

Trust in raw tal­ent is no guar­an­tee of vic­tory in any sport, and it was tested to snap­ping point when Roger Fed­erer sur­vived a se­ri­ous ex­am­i­na­tion of his pedi­gree to ad­vance to the semi-fi­nals of the ATP World Tour Fi­nals, while Jack Sock also stayed in the race.

Sock, full of Amer­i­can swag­ger on his first visit to the sin­gles tour­na­ment, beat the 2014 US Open cham­pion and this year’s Wim­ble­don fi­nal­ist Marin Cilic 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in two hours and 37 min­utes in the af­ter­noon, while Fed­erer, who has won six of these end-of-sea­son ti­tles, beat the ris­ing Alexan­der Zverev 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-1 in the evening. It took the Swiss two hours and 11 min­utes, although not all of that ex­pe­ri­ence was en­tirely serene.

Fed­erer plays Cilic on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, clearly de­signed to ramp up day-time ticket sales in a tour­na­ment shred­ded by the ab­sence of the in­jured Andy Mur­ray, No­vak Djokovic, Stan War­winka, Mi­los Raonic and Kei Nishikori, as well as the lessthan-sur­pris­ing de­par­ture of Rafael Nadal af­ter limp­ing to heroic de­feat on one good knee against David Gof­fin on Mon­day. Sock plays Zverev in the evening TV slot.

Fed­erer, who had not dropped a set here this week, said court­side af­ter a rous­ing come­back against Zverev: “It was a good bat­tle. I was try­ing to put a lot of balls in play. It was tough. I don’t think I qual­i­fied for the ATP World Fi­nals at 20. I’m very ex­cited for his fu­ture. He’s a great guy. I’m re­lieved that in the last match I can play freely against Cilic. Maybe now I can work on my game a lit­tle.”

Re­flect­ing on his per­for­mance, he told Sky: “I’m us­ing the slice be­hind the base­line nor­mally but I got stuck, a lit­tle too pas­sive a few times. I strug­gled on the of­fence a few times to­day. [But] I’m qual­i­fied again for the semis. I couldn’t be hap­pier.”

Af­ter 24 games, Zverev, al­ready No3 in the world – the rank­ing that the in­jured Mur­ray held in ab­sen­tia un­til tum­bling to No16 in the world – held three set points on Fed­erer’s serve, and the arena was on edge all around the 20,000 seats as the Swiss strained to keep the con­test down to two sets and an early night.

The ten­sion re­mained ramped to the limit as a way­ward Fed­erer back­hand al­lowed the Rus­sian-Ger­man to level at a set each. They had been play­ing for pre­cisely two hours, a sym­me­try that would soon be ripped asun­der. The fin­ish was nowhere near as fraught as the be­gin­ning.

Fed­erer had lost only four times in 53 matches this year: but only the Rus­sian Evgeny Don­skoy in the sec­ond round in Dubai in Fe­bru­ary, and Tommy Haas, at the first time of ask­ing in Stuttgart in June, had beaten him from a set down.

When Zverev blew a 40-0 lead with a lazy fore­hand to drop serve for 1-4 in the third, the game looked pretty much up. A dou­ble fault to hand Fed­erer vic­tory was more than sym­bolic. Zverev was tired, spent and well beaten.

In an must-win match, Zverev has to de­feat Sock on Thurs­day. It won’t be easy.

“That was a tough one, for sure,” Sock, here for the first time in sin­gles, said af­ter beat­ing, the Croa­t­ian’s seventh de­feat in eight matches here over the years. “It’s been an in­ter­est­ing morn­ing so far,” the Amer­i­can said. “The fire alarm went off in our ho­tel at 4am.

“I love play­ing in Lon­don. You make me feel at home. My coach nick­named me Show­time when I was young be­cause I al­ways love to play in front of peo­ple. There’s al­ways a lot go­ing on. I don’t even know what I’m do­ing some times.”

Roger Fed­erer is through to the last four af­ter sur­viv­ing a test against Alexan­der Zverev. Pho­to­graph: Ash­ley West­ern/Cam­er­aS­port via Getty Images

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