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By Chris Oddo | Saturday November 17, 2018




Novak Djokovic slipped on his professorial smock and conducted yet another ATP Finals masterclass on Saturday. The World No.1 bamboozled South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in jaw-dropping fashion to set a final with Alexander Zverev, 6-2, 6-2.

Djokovic improves to 53-11 on the season with the victory, and 35-11 lifetime at the ATP Finals. The five-time champion ties Pete Sampras for fourth on the tournament's all-time victory list, and he can tie Boris Becker for third with a victory in Sunday's final.

The Serb has now won six straight semifinals at the ATP Finals and his shellacking of Anderson was never close, but it was commanding.

“I think it was the best match that I’ve played this week and it came at the right time,” Djokovic told the crowd in an on-court interview after he notched his seventh career final at the ATP Finals.

Djokovic continues a torrid trend that started at Wimbledon—he has gone 35-2 since his run to a fourth Wimbledon title began, suffering losses only to Stefanos Tsitsipas at Toronto and Karen Khachanov in the Paris final two weeks ago.

Tecnifibre T-Fight

With the loss to rising Russian Khachanov still fresh in the memory banks, Djokovic has gone about his business in London like a man on a mission. The No.1 year-end ranking is secured, but the 31-year-old seems more focused on setting the tone for next season at the moment. With a second battle with 21-year-old Zverev looming, Djokovic will look to send one more message to anyone with designs on the biggest titles in 2019: To get there you’ll have to go through me.


Djokovic started fast and finished fast against Anderson on Saturday, breaking the South African’s serve in the opening game and earning two points for a double-break lead in the third game.

Anderson was up to that challenge, and he held for 1-2, but as the match played out it was apparent that the hard-hitting World No.6 would produce very few answers to the myriad questions Djokovic and his pulsating all-court game would ask of him.

Anderson struggled to win points from the baseline and because of this he was able to win just seven of 27 second serve points.

“Obviously that makes a big difference,” Djokovic said of that specific advantage after the contest. “I thought that a crucial stat is trying to win as many points off his second serve as possible, and I was trying to constantly put pressure on his service games.”

The strategy worked early and often and Djokovic broke serve for 5-2 in the opener before serving the set out with ease.

Tennis Express

The serve was another key point for Djokovic, and he remained hot from the service stripe as well, dropping just seven points and never facing a break point. For good measure, he even out-aced Anderson, 6-4.

“It is definitely not very common to serve more aces than Kevin, so obviously that helps,” he said.

The second set followed a similar pattern. Early break, tons of pressure, no chance for Anderson to catch his breath and then—whammo—a second break for 4-1 as a Djokovic crosscourt winner sailed wickedly wide of Anderson’s range for a clean winner.

Djokovic blanketed the court and provided depth and variety so that the South African could never relax and tee off on the ball. Djokovic won 10 of 11 rallies lasting nine or more shots while Anderson finished with 12 winners and 27 unforced errors compared to 18 winners against 14 unforced for the Serb.


Next up Djokovic will look to finish his remarkable season with an exclamation point as he faces Alexander Zverev for the second time this week. Djokovic eased past the German 6-4, 6-1 on Wednesday, winning eight of the final nine games after a solid start from Zverev.

But Zverev, who owns one win over Djokovic in three career tries, has produced great tennis since, defeating John Isner to qualify for the semis on Friday then battling past Roger Federer in straight-sets today.

“I have played very well in the group stage against him, but I don’t think he was close to his best to be honest and he’s been playing really well last couple of matches and today against Roger he had a great match,” Djokovic said.

“It’s going to be the last match of the year for both of us, and let the better player win.”

 

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