Djokovic takes big step towards ATP Finals semis

After a challenging first set, Novak Djokovic raced through the second set in 29 minutes
ATP Finals
Venue: O2 Arena, London Dates: 11-18 November
Coverage: Follow live coverage across BBC TV, radio, the BBC Sport website & mobile app. Live text commentary available on selected matches.

World number one Novak Djokovic took a big step towards the semi-finals at the ATP Finals with a clinical victory over Alexander Zverev.

After a very physical and close first set, the Serb ran away with the second to win 6-4 6-1.

Djokovic, chasing a first ATP Finals title since 2015, will reach the last four if John Isner beats Marin Cilic later on Wednesday.

“I don’t think it was breathtaking tennis but a win is a win,” he said.

“I played well mid-way through the second set and started to swing through the ball.

“I had not served that well but he made a lot of unforced errors which helped me to win.”

Indeed, it was a double-fault from Zverev that handed Djokovic the first set and a total of 33 unforced errors that contributed to the 21-year-old’s downfall.

Djokovic plays Cilic in his final round-robin match on Friday, while Zverev takes on Isner.

Are you Mr Bendy, Novak?

It took until the ninth game of the first set for either player to fashion a break point, Zverev missing two in that game.

Having survived that pressure, Djokovic left it until the perfect time to break in the following game – taking the set when the German double-faulted.

It was an unfortunate way for Zverev to fall behind, having been impressive with his serves until that point, delivering seven aces and in one game firing down three successive serves at more than 140mph.

Tipped by many as a future Grand Slam-winner, Zverev showed some of his talent with some beautiful passing shots but he was up against a player who can contort his body to reach almost anything.

Djokovic met one of Zverev’s body serves with an unconventional placement of his racquet that was more about shielding his face – but of course the return went in – and later Zverev needed two attempts at a smash to put the ball away, when against any other player the first one would have done.

“That’s a first – ‘Mr Bendy’,” the Serb laughed in his on-court interview. “I am relying on my flexibility a lot. I was fortunate to be surrounded with people who emphasised the importance of stretching and it has paid off.”

Analysis

Former British number one Tim Henman on BBC TV:

In the two sets, Djokovic only made 10 unforced errors. It’s not like he’s just rolling the ball into the court. He is playing at such a consistently high level. He dominated the last five games. I think he only lost two or three points.

It is a solid performance and puts a big marker down to the rest in the competition.

Former player and BBC commentator Andrew Castle:

This was from a guy [Djokovic] who was nowhere. He was a lost soul in the last two years after winning the French Open in 2016. He had won everything. But he is re-ignited now. I think it is fantastic to see him back at his best. It is brilliant for the game. Everyone will be watching this and thinking ‘that is a high standard’.

This tournament is finally starting to light up. We have had a lot of ordinary matches but that wasn’t one of them. Djokovic didn’t seem to think it was but if that’s the case then I’d like to see him playing ‘well’.

More to follow.

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