Djokovic inches closer to semifinal

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his group stage match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the ATP World Finals on Wednesday. Reuters

Novak Djokovic moved closer to a place in the semifinals of the ATP Finals as the world number one dispatched Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-1 on Wednesday.

Djokovic is chasing a sixth ATP Finals title and his first in the prestigious season-ending event at London’s O2 Arena since 2015.

In his 11th appearance at the Finals, the Serb will be guaranteed to reach the last four for the eighth time if John Isner beats Marin Cilic or if Cilic defeats Isner in three sets later on Wednesday.

Djokovic, who beat Isner in his opening group-stage match, has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance in the second half of 2018 and lifting the trophy on the banks of the River Thames would be the perfect way to finish his year.

Djokovic faces Cilic in his last group match on Friday, while Zverev, who defeated Cilic to kick off his Finals campaign, takes on Isner.

“I found it more difficult than in the first match against John Isner. I played well midway through the second set and started to swing through the ball,” said Djokovic, who has suffered only two defeats in the Finals since 2012.

Zverev is emerging as one of the Tour’s brightest young stars after climbing to fifth in the world and reaching the French Open quarterfinals this year.

The 21-year-old shocked Djokovic in the Rome final last year, but the Serb was on top when they met in a one-sided Shanghai semifinal last month and it was the same story again in their third meeting.

Roger Federer staved off elimination as the six-time champion eased to a 6-2, 6-3 win over Dominic Thiem on Tuesday.

After losing his opening match against Kei Nishikori, Federer would have crashed out if he had been beaten by Thiem.

Only once before has Federer failed to qualify from his group for the knockout rounds in his 15 previous appearances at the prestigious season-ending event.

That lone flop came 10 years ago when the Finals were held in Shanghai and Federer is still in with a chance of avoiding that ignominious fate thanks to his comfortable 66-minute dismissal of Thiem.

Bidding for a record seventh ATP Finals crown and a first in the tournament since 2011 -- which would be the 100th singles title of his glittering career -- world number three Federer must beat South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in his last group match to make the semifinals.

“It feels good. I am very happy that I showed a reaction after the last match,” Federer said.

“Against Kei, instead of seeing things positively, I thought negatively. It was disappointing but it happens.

“Today I was more positive and happy on the court. I love playing in London and I had to remind myself what a privilege it is. I hope I showed it.”

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Djokovic inches closer to semifinal

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