ATP Finals

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Federer advances to record-extending 15th ATP Finals semi

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LONDON — Roger Federer advanced to the last four of the ATP Finals for a record-extending 15th time with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Kevin Anderson on Thursday.

Six-time champion Federer needed only a set to advance and produced his best performance at the season-ending tournament to end the round-robin stages with a 2-1 win-loss record.

Dominic Thiem’s 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori earlier had left Federer with a modest task and ensured that Anderson became the first South African ever to reach the semifinals.

Federer looked as if he was about to give up a break advantage for the second time in as many service games when he dropped to 0-40 attempting to close out the opening set at 5-4, but the 20-time Grand Slam champion found his first serve when it mattered most to hold.

Anderson hadn’t faced a break point in winning his first two matches. Federer, though, broke him twice more in the second set to claim top spot in the group and likely avoid a semifinal meeting with top-ranked Novak Djokovic.

Having struggled in an opening loss to Nishikori and relied mainly on his serve when defeating Thiem, Federer finally found some timing with his ground-strokes to apply consistent pressure on Anderson’s serve.

The previously impenetrable Anderson serve wilted, with two double faults gifting Federer a 4-3 lead. Much to the surprise – and disappointment – of the partisan crowd at the O2 Arena, the Swiss great handed the break straight back with a series of errors.

However, Federer steadied himself and made a delicate drop volley to break once more in the following game, before eventually closing out the set to maintain his record of having only missed the semifinals once in 16 appearances at the tournament.

Federer lost just four points on serve in the second set. He used a backhand slice to break for 4-3 and the same shot brought up two match points at 3-5, 15-40.

Having saved a match point on his way to securing a five-set quarterfinal victory over Federer at Wimbledon, Anderson threatened another comeback as he won a 21-shot rally to get back to deuce, but there was to be no repeat this time.

Two more Anderson forehand errors ended the match and Federer won the group by virtue of their head-to-head record.

With Djokovic clear favorite to top his group, which concludes Friday, Federer has boosted his chances of avoiding the in-form Serb until the final.

Novak Djokovic closes in on semifinals at ATP Finals

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LONDON — Novak Djokovic won his second straight match at the ATP Finals, beating Alexander Zverev on Wednesday to close in on a spot in the semifinals.

The five-time champion from Serbia saved two break points at 4-4 in the opening set and then broke Zverev in the following game to take the lead.

Zverev won only one more game.

The only result from Wednesday’s late match that can prevent Djokovic from advancing would be a straight-set victory for Marin Cilic over John Isner.

After defeating Cilic in his opening match, Zverev still has a chance to become the first German since 2003 to advance to the semifinals of the season-ending competition.

The top-ranked Djokovic and third-seeded Zverev engaged in a number of thrilling exchanges early on, but it wasn’t until the ninth game that Zverev earned the first break point of the match, aided by a friendly net cord. Djokovic saved it with a service winner but then double-faulted to give the 21-year-old another opportunity.

Zverev played a great defensive forehand slice to set up a chance to finish the point with a backhand lob, but his attempt drifted just wide and Djokovic held on for 5-4.

Zverev then made a spate of errors in the next game to bring up set point for Djokovic, and double-faulted to hand the Serb the lead.

The 21-year-old Zverev rallied from 0-30 down in his next service game to hold, but that was the last of his resistance.

Djokovic broke for a 3-1 lead and then lost just one more point as he remained on track to equal Roger Federer’s six titles at the tournament.

Victory at the O2 Arena would cap a remarkable season for Djokovic, who has already secured the year-end No. 1 ranking after dropping as low as 22nd in June.

The 31-year-old ended a two-year Grand Slam title drought by winning Wimbledon in July before collecting his 14th major trophy at the U.S. Open two months later.

Goffin ousts Federer in ATP Finals semis

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LONDON — David Goffin ended Roger Federer’s bid for a seventh ATP Finals title by stunning the favorite 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday.

The Belgian claimed the biggest win of his career and qualified for the final on Sunday, when he will face Grigor Dimitrov or Jack Sock. They play later Saturday.

Federer looked to be heading toward his 11th final at the elite season-ending tournament when he cruised through the first set, but Goffin took advantage of a drop in his play to level.

Despite having lost all six of his previous encounters with Federer, Goffin was able to execute better in the deciding set, breaking in the third game and producing a nerveless display of serving to seal victory.