- Alex Sharp

The top four singles seeds graced the semi-finals, with two pulsating performances earning a ticket into the ATP Finals silverware showdown

Novak Djokovic fist pumps at the 2018 Rolex Paris Masters©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

“Where it gets tough is he doesn't give you any room to find your way in the match. He's just on you the whole time. That's why he's one of the best players of all time.”

Kevin Anderson, who let’s remember was a Wimbledon finalist, is of course referring to Novak Djokovic after been swatted aside 6-2, 6-2 by the Serbian.

Control or destiny?


Following elbow surgery and conquering a spiral of doubt in 2018, the world No.1 is well and truly back to the peak of his powers.

Now Djokovic is just one match away from lifting a record-tying sixth ATP Finals trophy, but a certain ‘Next Gen’ leader Alexander Zverev stands in his way on Sunday evening in east London.

Victory over Anderson was Djokovic’s 15th over Top 10 opposition in 2018, which have all come since June. Simply put, the Tour is struggling to cope with the force of Djokovic’s reassembled artillery and that is proven by a sublime 35-2 record since the start of Wimbledon.

Sometimes things look quite easy or routine from the side of the court, but they're much different in person. You just have to earn everything. Nothing is given away for free,” insisted Djokovic, explaining his captivating 2018 comeback.At the end of the day, it comes down to whether the mind serves you or you serve the mind. I try to take control over that and over my destiny, how things work out.”



Not content with being renowned as one of the best returners of all time, Novak Djokovic seems intent on wielding one of the best serves the sport has ever seen. The 31-year-old hasn’t been broken in 36 service games this week, losing just 19 points off his first delivery in the entire tournament.

“Well, it's still ongoing work. It will continue because I feel like I always can improve in that shot,” declared Djokovic. “Obviously glad that my opponents feel like I'm improving in my serve, because it is ultimately the most important shot in the game.

“I thought I was also backing up the serve with the first shot in the rally very well through the entire week. That allowed me to kind of protect my service games, win them all so far in the tournament.”



 

Well, stroung and fast


The top seed is right, his first serve and then next shot in the rally have been ruthless and clinical. His opponents have been bamboozled beyond the baseline.

What about Sascha? Djokovic demolished the German 6-2, 6-1 in Shanghai, before a commanding 6-4, 6-1 scoreline earlier this week in the round robin.

“I thought Sascha did very well in crucial moments,” revealed the world No.1, having watched the first semi-final. “When Roger (Federer) was putting some pressure on him to come back in the match, Sascha managed to hold his serve very well, also really, really strong and fast.

“I'm expecting quite a different matchup for us than what it was in the group stage, even though the win in the group stage against him few days ago can definitely serve as kind of maybe a mental advantage.

“But Sascha, even though he's a leader of new generation, still kind of considered a young player, he's an established player. He's shown some great skill on the court the last couple years. He's shown why he deserves to be in the mix of the top players in the world.”



“I executed well“


The soaring Serbian couldn’t have put it any better, Zverev is almost underrated. It’s also very easy to remember the world No.5 is a decade younger than Djokovic and the German remains in contention for the biggest title of his fledging career. That’s courtesy of a statement 7-5, 7-6(5) triumph over Roger Federer.

The Swiss maestro had a 17,000 strong crowd urging him on, as per usual, but Zverev assembled the complete performance to deny Federer the pursuit of career title No.100.

“I played really well. I played really aggressive from start to finish. I knew I had to be the one that was aggressive,” Zverev told reporters. “If Roger dictates, you have no chance of winning a match. I executed well.”

A cacophony of boos


In the second set tie-break, down 3-4, Zverev halted play due to a ball boy dropping a ball. Confusion swirled the O2 Arena but quite rightly the point was replayed. Sections of an ardent Federer crowd let out a cacophony of boos for the rest of the bout.

It was mightly impressive how Sascha kept it together in such a hostile environment, being able to fire down an ace, before closing victory with a sweeping backhand pass.

“I was really upset afterwards in the locker room, I’m not going to lie. I had to take a few minutes for myself,” added the 21-year-old, after a magnificent reception drowned out the unjust jeers from the crowd.



Having prevailed through such a titanic task, the first German to reach the final since 1996 is well aware of the gravitas of Sunday’s challenge.

“Novak right now is the best player in the world. It's very tough to beat him. He's barely lost a match in the last six months. He's playing amazing tennis. You have to play your best game to even have a chance,” added Zverev, who left with a defiant message. “I'll be ready.”

Being ready is one thing, but managing to out manoeuvre or even just break Djokovic is proving to be the ultimate puzzle.

A boost for the French team?

 




Roland Garros champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut surged into the final for the first time with a 6-3, 5-7, 10-5 passage past Colombian combination Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

Their third straight win in London earned a Championship battle with Wimbledon and US Open champions Mike Bryan alongside Jack Sock. The French duo toppled their American counterparts 6-2, 6-2 on Friday to top Group Knowles/Nestor.

 Will doubles delight boost the French team ahead of the Davis Cup final at the end of the month?