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ATP • Nitto Preview • Roger Federer To Play Zverev In London At The Fabulous 02 Arena

Ricky’s preview and pick for the winners’ round-robin match in Group B: Federer vs. Zverev


By Ricky Dimon


Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev will be facing each other for the fifth time in their careers when they each try to remain undefeated in round-robin Group B at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals on Tuesday night.


The head-to-head series is all tied up at two victories apiece, including one each in 2017. Federer cruised in the Gerry Weber Open final 6-1, 6-3 before Zverev took their only previous hard-court meeting 6-3, 6-4 in the Montreal final. Last season, Federer prevailed 6-3, 7-5 on the red clay of Rome only to see Zverev score a 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-3 upset in the Halle semis.


A back injury hobbled Federer during his Montreal loss to Zverev and also contributed to a difficult road at the U.S. Open, where he survived several tight matches before losing to Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinals. It’s safe to say that the back is not an issue anymore. Federer is 11-0 since the U.S. Open with titles in Shanghai and Basel plus a 6-4, 7-6(4) defeat of Jack Sock on Sunday at the O2 Arena.


“I think we’re all going to start playing better every round that goes by,” Federer explained after beating Sock. “It’s just still early days in the tournament. (You) can’t expect to play your best against the best players in the world in that first match…. I think that’s the difficulty in a first round usually at any tournament. Here it’s amplified because it’s against a fellow top-10 player. It just makes things really, really difficult.”


It will be a fellow top-three player on the other side of the net on Tuesday. Zverev’s ascension to the top of tennis in 2017 was highlighted by Masters 1000 triumphs in Montreal and Rome, plus additional titles in Montpellier, Munich, and Washington, D.C. The 20-year-old slumped to the tune of an 8-7 record in his last seven events prior to London, but he picked up an impressive 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Marin Cilic on Sunday night.


Thus it is Zverev who actually has a better lifetime winning percentage than Federer at the year-end championship. Of course, his sample size is just a wee bit smaller. Whereas Zverev is 1-0, Federer owns a ridiculous 53-12 career record at this tournament with six titles.


“I think anyone beating Federer in this group [would have] a good chance of passing (to the semifinals),” Zverev commented. “But he’s the favorite, definitely, in all of the matches he plays. I played him a few times this year now…. All of them were great matches. Hopefully it can be another one.”


Given how well the German did to battle back from a break down in the third set against Cilic and how well he has fared against Federer in the past, another competitive one should be in the cards. But the 36-year-old will likely raise the level he produced against Sock and improve to 2-0 in Group B following a good test.

Pick: Federer in 3


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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