ovak Djokovic bounced back from an earlier defeat to Daniil Medvedev to beat Alexander Zverev and book his place in the last four of the ATP Finals.
Zverev has had a penchant of beating the world No1 at the end-of-season event – Rafael Nadal last year and Djokovic the year before when the German won the overall title.
But after recovering from a rocky start to challenge, he failed to break the defence of the current world No1 in a 6-3, 7-6 loss.
The result set up a semi-final meeting against Dominic Thiem for Djokovic on Saturday, and kept alive the prospect of a 57th career meeting between Djokovic and Nadal come Sunday.
Djokovic said: “I felt great. In the first set, he had a couple of break point chances and I managed to serve well. I managed to find the right shots at the right time.”
Djokovic had struggled to come out of the blocks in his defeat to Medvedev and admitted to struggling physically after the match.
Against Zverev, there was no such issue from the outset as he won the first seven points of the match and then went up a break 2-0 when his opponent double faulted.
From there, Zverev settled and grew into the tie but grew increasingly frustrated – regularly remonstrating with his box – after failing to find a way past the five-time champion.
There were chances in both sets to break the Serbian – two in game seven of the opening set – but an unflappable Djokovic duly saved them and rounded off the set in 33 minutes.
As the match dragged on, Djokovic was increasingly under the cosh in the second set. He faced a break at 2-1 down as did Zverev, who repeatedly ran his opponent ragged on his own service game, showing the array of shots that have marked him out as a future Grand Slam winner.
Neither player could break the deadlock to set up a tiebreak. Zverev had won his last five tiebreaks at the ATP Finals while Djokovic had lost just one of 14 tiebreaks this season – that one hiccup against Britain’s Kyle Edmund.
Zverev got the early break but Djokovic increasingly turned the screw to seemingly win the shoot-out at a canter.
Looking ahead to his meeting against Thiem, who beat him in London a year ago, Djokovic said: “Earlier in his career he played his best on clay but being one of the hardest workers on tour, Dominic found his A game on all other surfaces.
“His first slam came on hard court earlier this year in New York. I played him last year here and lost 7-6 in the third set. Hopefully we can have another great match but with a different outcome.”