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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, November 14, 2017

 
Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev

Roger Federer is bidding for his 14th semifinal in his 15th appearance at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Photo credit: Hopman Cup Facebook

LONDON—A battle of the ages offers opportunity for advancement when the oldest man in the field faces the youngest at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Roger Federer will play 20-year-old Alexander Zverev in the latest episode of their growing rivalry on Tuesday night.

Watch: Goffin Prevails, Nadal Closes Curtain on 2017

Bidding for his 14th trip to the semifinals in 15 career appearances at the Nitto ATP Finals, Federer squares off against the only man to defeat him in a final this season—and one of only four men to beat him in 2017.

The 36-year-old Swiss has split four meetings with the Zverev, who knows he can topple the Grand Slam king in pivotal matches because he's already done it before.

Zverev swept Federer, 6-3, 6-4, in the Montreal final in August, avenging a 6-1, 6-3 setback to the Swiss in the Halle final in June.

Though there is a 16-year age gap, the pair are sometime practice partners and know each other’s games. They’re both among the ATP title leaders with Federer claiming a Tour-best seven titles and Zverev capturing five championships, including a pair of Masters 1000 crowns.

“Alexander has been around for a while now,” Federer said. “Not a whole long time. But at this level, I've gotten to play him already now for the fourth or fifth time, practiced a ton with him. We know each other well.

“He's healthy. He's motivated. He has a lot of confidence. I like his game. He has a big game. He serves well. He has a great backhand. I like his backhand.”



The 6’6” German’s crackling two-handed backhand and imposing serve have evoked comparisons to another powerhouse player and former Federer foe—two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin—and while Zverev can also erupt with the volatility of the young Safin he’s also shown disciplined point construction and the ability to trouble Federer in backhand exchanges.

Pounding deep drives into Federer's one-handed backhand, Zverev snapped Federer’s 15-match Halle winning streak in 2016. Federer gained emphatic revenge dismissing Zverev, 6-1, 6-3, in the Halle final in June.

Tonight’s rematch pits Zverev’s aggressive baseline game against Federer’s all-court acumen.

The second-ranked Swiss will need to assert his variety, step into the court and mix his short-angled slice backhand with forehand drives to displace the lanky German from the baseline.

"I know he's probably the best player taking time away from an opponent," Zverev said. "If he gets an offensive game going it's very tough to beat him.”

Six-time champion Federer will advance to the final four if he defeats Zverev in straight sets or if he beats Zverev and Jack Sock, whom Federer stopped in his opener, defeats Marin Cilic in this afternoon’s match.

Zverev will qualify for the semifinals if he beats Federer and Cilic defeats Sock.

“Look, I mean, I think anyone beating Federer in this group has a good chance of passing,” Zverev said after rallying past Cilic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 on Sunday night. “But he's the favorite definitely in all of the matches he plays.”

Amplifying the intrigue is the fact both men will take the court knowing the outcome of today’s Cilic vs. Sock match—and knowing exactly what’s at stake when they square off.

 

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