London: Novak Djokovic produced a masterclass on Saturday to crush Kevin Anderson and set up a title decider at the ATP Finals against Alexander Zverev, who ousted Roger Federer after a bizarre incident involving a ball boy.
World number one Djokovic comfortably saw off the fourth seed 6-2, 6-2, never looking remotely troubled as he targets a record-equalling sixth end-of-season title at London’s O2 Arena.
Earlier, 21-year-old Zverev beat Federer 7-5, 7-6 (7/5), denying the Swiss veteran a tilt at a 100th title and earning a chance to avenge his round-robin defeat at the hands of the Serb earlier in the tournament.
“I’m very pleased I’m able to play at a high level consistently week after week for the last six months,” said Djokovic.
“I played very well in the group stage against Sascha (Zverev) but I don’t think he was close to his best… It is the last match of the year for both of us so let the better player win.” Anderson came into the evening contest knowing his serve had to be firing on all cylinders if he was to stand any chance against Djokovic — one of the greatest returners in the history of the game.
But the giant South African landed just 48 per cent of first serves in the first set and Djokovic was ruthless in punishing his opponent, breaking in the first game and repeating the feat before serving out for the set.
Hitting the ball with mesmeric accuracy, Djokovic broke his fading opponent at the start of the second set and again in the fifth game to underline his total domination. Djokovic’s serving numbers are even more phenomenal than his returning — he has not been broken once in four matches in London and has faced just two break points.
When asked whether he is producing some of the best serving in his career, he said: “Possibly. It is not very common to serve more aces than Kevin (six to four). That stat helps the confidence.” The 14-time Grand Slam champion has only lost two matches since July as he makes up for lost time following elbow surgery and poor form earlier in the season.
The end of the Federer-Zverev match was overshadowed by an unusual incident, Zverev stopping a rally with Federer leading 4-3 in the second-set tie-break after a ball boy dropped a ball.
Zverev won the replayed point with an ace and nudged into a 5-4 lead before Federer inexplicably netted with a simple forehand volley to hand the German two match points, the second of
which he took on his own serve.
On-court interviewer Annabel Croft told the pro-Federer O2 crowd to be ‘more respectful’ after they showered him with boos, as Zverev had been playing by the rules. “Obviously the crowd didn’t appreciate it, which I was a little bit upset — not upset, but I was a little bit sad at the end with the booing and reaction of the crowd,” said Zverev.
“Maybe they didn’t know what actually happened. That was maybe part of the reaction. But, you know, at the end of the day I said sorry to Roger at the net. He said ‘Look, you don’t even have to apologise’.”