Tennis: Novak Djokovic sets up Dominic Thiem showdown at ATP Finals

London's farewell edition of the ATP Finals could still have its dream climax, with world No.1 Novak Djokovic beating Alexander Zverev 6-3 7-6(4) to seal a last-four spot. 

After losing to Daniil Medvedev earlier in the week, Djokovic had to beat Germany's Zverev to avoid a group-stage exit and he obliged with a relatively comfortable win.

The 33-year-old Serb will face US Open champion Dominic Thiem in Sunday's semi-final, while world No.2 Rafael Nadal plays Russian Medvedev.

Djokovic was pummelled 6-3 6-3 by an inspired Medvedev, but was much sharper against Zverev, another one of the new generation trying to barge the old guard off stage.

"In contrast to the match against Daniil, I found the right shots at the right time," says Djokovic.

"I have tremendous respect for Sascha, a great player. It was anybody's game for most of the match."

Zverev soundly beat Djokovic in the 2018 final, a match played out in an electrifying atmosphere in front of 18,000 fans. This time, the arena was empty, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, a surreal backdrop for a match with so much riding on it for both men.

Despite the flat feel, Djokovic was quickly into game mode and when world No.7 Zverev double-faulted to drop serve in his first service game, he seized control.

Dominic Thiem.
Dominic Thiem. Photo credit: Photosport

Zverev dug in his heels in the second set, but missed a chance for an early break, before recovering from a couple of double faults to fend off a break point in the following game.

Djokovic looked edgy at times and twice had to hold serve to avoid being dragged into a third set.

But the 17-time Grand Slam champion raised the intensity level in the tiebreak, edging 5-3 ahead with a fizzing backhand pass. He brought up two match points with a hefty first serve, before pressurising Zverev into an error to complete victory.

Djokovic is bidding to equal Roger Federer's record of six ATP Finals titles, while Nadal seeks a first.

Meanwhile, Medvedev was already assured of topping the group after beating Djokovic, but beat Argentina's Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-3 in their dead rubber.