Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are only within one win away from setting up their 48th career meeting after both topped their group in the round robin play at the season ending finale at the O2 Arena in London. The five time champion Djokovic topped the Gustavo Kuerten group winning all three matches, now plays the South African Kevin Anderson, while the six time champion Federer who topped the Lleyton Hewitt group on account of his win over Anderson, next plays the German Alexander Zverev in the first semi final on Saturday.
The Swiss maestro who is bidding to become only the second player after Jimmy Connors (109) in tennis history to win 100 titles, needed only to win six games to confirm his place in the last four, achieved his target after capturing the opening set 6-4. Federer, who lost a round robin match in straight sets for the first time in 15 years at the season ending finale when he dropped the opening match to Kei Nishikori of Japan, then broke serve twice in the second set to win 6-4,6-3.
Anderson who beat both Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori was assured of becoming the first South African to qualify for the last four stage on his Tournament debut, has to settle for second place in the group following his loss to Federer. Both had 2-1 records in group stage, 4-2 in sets. Even though Anderson was 32-22 in games won/lost, marginally ahead of Federer who was 33-25, the second seeded Swiss topped the group as he beat his rival.
Novak Djokovic who had already number one ranking before the start of the tournament, advanced to the last four as he topped the Gustavo Kuerten group winning all three matches in straight sets. On Friday night the Croat Marin Cilic pushed Djokovic to a tie-break in the first set but then faded as the Serb raced to a 7-6(7),6-2 win in the final match of round robin action.
Earlier in the day, Alexander Zverev, booked his place in the semi finals with a 7-6(5),6-3 win over the American John Isner. While Zverev becomes the youngest player in nine years after Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009 to reach the final four, Isner who at age 33 became the oldest player to make his debut appearance at the season ending finale, has the dubious distinction of being the only player in the eight man elite field to go winless in the tournament. Isner, like Kei Nishikori got the opportunity to play in the tournament owing to the withdrawal of the Spaniard Rafael Nadal and the Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro.
Dominic Thiem reedemed himself with a comprehensive 6-1,6-4 win over Nishikori to ensure he does not go without a win in the tournament and had a mathematical chance of getting into the last four stage should Federer win less than six games in his match against Kevin Anderson.
Nishikori, who had surprised Federer on opening day winning in straight sets, fell apart in his remaining two group matches. He was beaten 0-6,1-6 by Anderson in the second match and only offered token resistance in the second set against the Austrian.Both players finished with 1-2 record in group stage.
Nishikori, who played a Challenger event in the beginning of the year after coming back from injury in 2017, will finish the year ranked ninth. Thiem finishes eighth, Cilic seventh and Isner at tenth, his first ever top Ten finish to the season.
Following is the line up for the semi final with my pick mentioned first :-
Roger Federer (2) (48-9) v. Alexander Zverev (3) (56-19) ; Federer leads 3-2.
Novak Djokovic (1) (52-11) v. Kevin Anderson (4) (48-18); Djokovic leads 7-1.