Alexander Zverev clinched a straight sets win over Roger Federer to reach the final of the ATP Finals. Enjoying a career-best season, the 21-year-old could become the first German winner since Boris Becker.
Third seed Zverev won 7-5, 7-6 (5), breaking late in the first set and exchanging breaks in the second before coming out on top in a back-and-forth tie break to become the first German player since Boris Becker - 22 years ago - to reach the final of tennis' showpiece event.
Federer, 37, was seeking a record-extending seventh title, but despite regular chants of "Let's Go Roger, Let's Go” from the partisan crowd, the 20-time Grand Slam winner was unable to cope with the pressure created by Zverev's power and precision at the O2 Arena.
Leading the charge of the new generation against the old guard, the 21-year-old has flattered to deceive on the game's biggest stages but is now just one win away from the biggest title of his career.
Zverev "just happy to be here”
The result was initially overshadowed by an incident during the match-deciding tie break after a ball boy disrupted play by moving during a rally. Zverev called attention to the situation mid-point and the match official played a let as per the rules.
"First of all I'd like to apologize for the situation in the tie-break," said Zverev. "The ball boy dropped the ball and the rules say the point has to be replayed. I apologized to Roger at the net. I want to apologize to the fans – I know there are a lot of Federer fans here."
"I'm unbelievably proud, my team and me have been working so hard for this. It's a great opportunity to be able to play again here tomorrow. I hope to have many more great matches here," continued the world number five, who has more wins in 2018 than any other player, with 57, and his sights set on a fourth title of the year.
The German's long-predicted arrival at the summit of men's tennis has taken too long for some impatient observers but beating the six-time champions has offered Zverev to expedite the process. A title win on Sunday would represent a coming of age for the rising tennis star.