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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, November 18, 2021

 
Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev swept Hubert Hurkacz to set up a blockbuster ATP Finals semifinal showdown vs. world No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Saturday.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

In the quest for year-end supremacy, Alexander Zverev knows all roads lead to Novak Djokovic.

Olympic gold-medal champion Zverev aims to continue a trip to the Turin title when he takes on world No. 1 Djokovic in the ATP Finals semifinals on Saturday.

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The third-seeded Zverev swept Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 6-4 today sealing his third semifinal in five appearances at the prestigious season-ending event.




A determined Zverev dictated with a dominant serve to dismiss Hurkacz for his 30th win in his last 34 matches.

Zverev served 77 percent, won 86 percent of his first serve points, pumped 11 aces and did not face a break-point in a 62-minute win. Zverev improved to 57-15 on the season.

Looking detached at the start, Hurkacz lost 16 of the first 18 points falling into a 4-0 hole. While he picked up his play in the second set, the pliable Pole couldn’t crack the code of the menacing missiles he faced.

Three of the four semifinalists are set.

Zverev will face Green Group champion Djokovic in one semifinal on Saturday. Defending champion and Red Group winner Medvedev will face either good buddy Andrey Rublev or debutant Casper Ruud in Saturday’s other semifinal.

It will be 11th clash between five-time champion Djokovic and 2018 champion Zverev with the top seed holding a 7-3 edge in their head-to-head series.

The 24-year-old Zverev and Djokovic will face off for the fourth time at the ATP Finals with the German riding his rocket serve to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over the Serbian in the 2018 final. Djokovic rallied from a set down to defeat Zverev in the Australian Open quarterfinals and US Open semifinals this season. Zverev streaked through 10 of the last 11 games shocking Djokovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to power into the Tokyo Olympics gold-medal match last July.

“We played basically every single big event this year on hard court against each other, right? We played at the Australian Open, we played at the Olympics, and we played at the US Open, so it's only right that we play each other here as well," Zverev said of Djokovic. "I'm looking forward to it. I think it's always interesting. It's always close when we play each other, so I'm looking forward to hopefully another tough one."

Despite a dour ending to this event, Hurkacz should feel plenty of pride in a magnificent season that saw him win the Miami Open, defeat No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and eight-time champion Roger Federer to reach his first major semifinal at Wimbledon, push Djokovic to a third-set breaker in the Paris semifinals and become just the second Polish singles player to reach the ATP Finals.




A jittery Hurkacz got off to a slow start dropping serve at 15 in the opening game when he scattered a forehand wide.

A horrific Hurkacz start grew worse as he yanked a forehand down the line wide to surrender serve again. Seven minutes into the match, Zverev was up 3-0 winning 12 of the first 14 points.

The Olympic gold-medal champion stamped his second straight love hold for 5-1 after a mere 18 minutes of play.

Continuing to try to shorten points by attacking net, Hurkacz stalled his slide saving a set point to hold in the seventh game.

Zverev served out the 25-minute opening set at 15 winning three of eight games at love.

“The match was not quite the same because there was not a lot of rhythm; I think Hubie was going for his shots a lot more than Daniil and me in the last match,” Zverev said. “I’m happy to be through. I’m happy to be in the semifinals. I knew I had to win today and it was important for me.”

The Miami Open champion never looked completely comfortable in this match. Though Hurkacz held strong under stress for a 4-3 second-set lead and went up love-30 in the following game he couldn’t crack Zverev’s serve.

Embed from Getty Images

Hurkacz hit his 11th ace to erase break point in the ninth game but his unruly forehand went wide to gift the break and a 5-4 lead to the German.

Serving for the semifinal, Zverev was down love 30 for the second game in a row. Zverev zapped his 11th ace, banged a body serve and reached match point on an errant Hurkacz forehand. One final sweeping serve sent Zverev into his third ATP Finals semifinal in his fifth appearance at the year-end event.

"I think every single match that we played was very close," Zverev said of facing Djokovic. "Every single match that we played we both needed to be at our best. One or two points decided the matches. I expect no different here, as well."


 

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