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Tennis • Ricky’s Preview | Picks For The London ATP Nitto Semis: Federer vs. Tsitsipas, Thiem vs. Zverev

By Ricky Dimon

Only one of the Big 3 has advanced to the semis of the Nitto ATP Finals, and it is none other than Roger Federer. Now it’s time for semifinal Saturday, when Federer will get things started against Stefanos Tsitsipas before Dominic Thiem collides with Alexander Zverev.

Ricky previews the action and makes his picks.

(1A) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. (2B) Roger Federer

Federer and Tsitsipas will be squaring off for the fourth time in their careers and for the fourth time this year. The 38-year-old leads the head-to-head series 2-1 despite losing their first encounter 6-7(11), 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-6(5) in round four of the Australian Open. He triumphed one month later in the Dubai final via a 6-4, 6-4 decision and he just recently prevailed by the exact same scoreline this fall in Basel.

Tsitsipas is the lone London debutant in the semifinals, having won Group A with straight-set victories over Zverev and Daniil Medvedev. The 21-year-old fell to Rafael Nadal 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5 on Friday afternoon but remained on top thanks to Zverev’s victory over Medvedev in the nightcap. Even though Tsitsipas is No. 1 in the group, he has a less favorable semifinal matchup with Group B runner-up Federer as opposed to Group B winner Thiem.

Of course, the world No. 6 probably won’t mind getting another shot at a Big 3 opponent. He has already defeated Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic in his brief career and almost took down the world No. 1 again on Friday despite having already qualified for the semis and even though a loss would mean a chance to avoid Federer on Saturday.

The Swiss finished second in his group after bouncing back from a 7-5, 7-5 loss to Thiem in his opener. He followed it up by beating Matteo Berrettini 7-6(2), 6-3 and taking an elimination match against Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday night.

Tsitsipas will likely have to play incredible, as Federer’s level against Djokovic was off the charts–25 winners and seven unforced errors, to be exact. Federer also benefits from an extra day of rest, while Tsitsipas must rebound from a two-hour and 52-minute thriller against Nadal.

Pick: Federer in 3

(1B) Dominic Thiem vs. (2A) Alexander Zverev

Something will have to give when Thiem and Zverev clash in the nightcap. Thiem arguably owns the two most impressive victories this week, having taken down both Federer and Djokovic–who have won the year-end championship a combined 11 times. Zverev, however, is the defending champion and has earned each of his wins this week in straight sets.

Both rising stars look worthy of reaching the final if not capturing the title. Only one, of course, can keep those hopes alive on Saturday night.

This marks their eighth career encounter, with Thiem leading the head-to-head series 5-2. That statistic hardly means anything, as only two of their meetings have come on hard courts (Thiem leads 4-1 on clay) and they have not faced each other since the 2018 French Open.

Thiem frequently failing to advance deep in hard-court tournaments is part of the reason for the relative lack of recent head-to-head history. It is safe to say, however, that those woes are things of the past. Three of the 26-year-old Austrian’s five titles this season have come on hard courts, all three coming at no less than the 500-point level (Vienna, Beijing, and the Indian Wells Masters). He had previously captured two hard-court titles in his entire career. Armed with sudden confidence on this surface, Thiem upset both Federer and Djokovic inside the O2 before losing to Berrettini in a mostly meaningless match.

There was no guarantee for Zverev’s place on Saturday after he followed up an opening win over Nadal with a 6-3, 6-2 loss to Tsitsipas. Needing to defeat Medvedev on Friday night in order to advance and knock out Nadal, the 22-year-old came up big and prevailed 6-4, 7-6(4).

This is a tough one to call, as the surface favors Zverev and he has momentum after surviving on Friday. Thiem’s peak–which was especially on display against Djokovic–has been superior to that of anyone else in the field this week.

Pick: Thiem 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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