Djokovic Advances at ATP Finals as Federer Retains Title Chance

Novak Djokovic reached the semifinals of tennis’s season finale after record six-time champion Roger Federer kept alive his bid to reach the knockout stage for the 11th time in 12 appearances.

Djokovic, the No. 2 seed from Serbia, beat Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 last night in the ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2 arena, where Federer earlier defeated France’s Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-3. Federer and del Potro will meet tomorrow to decide the other qualifier from Group B.

Djokovic, 26, joins top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain in qualifying for the semifinals after two round-robin matches at the event for the top eight men. The defending champion from Serbia has won his last three tournaments, beating Nadal, del Potro and David Ferrer in the finals, and has now extended his winning streak to 19 matches.

“I’m playing the best tennis I think I played throughout the whole season,” Djokovic told reporters. “That’s something that I take as a positive for this moment and for obviously next season. I’m definitely feeling confident, more confident than I was a few months ago.”

Djokovic, who beat Switzerland’s Federer in his London opener, will end the first stage tomorrow by taking on Gasquet, who was eliminated with yesterday’s loss. The semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 10, with the final the following day.

Djokovic’s match against No. 4 seed del Potro saw both players miss early break-point opportunities. The Serb converted his fifth chance to go up 4-2 and served out the opening set.

Lucky Break

In the next set, the break again came in game six, this time on a piece of good fortune for del Potro when his attempted winner hit the top of the net and dribbled over. The Argentine won 80 percent of the points on his first service in the set, enabling him to even the match.

Del Potro squandered two break-point opportunities to gain the upper hand early in the final set, where Djokovic again secured the only break in the sixth game and served out the victory in one hour, 54 minutes. Djokovic hit 34 winners to del Potro’s 24 in the match, and won 70 percent of the points on his second serve, compared to 48 percent for his opponent.

Federer, the record 17-time men’s Grand Slam singles champion, took 81 minutes to beat Gasquet, winning 68 percent of the points on his first serve and breaking four times.

Should Federer fail to beat del Potro tomorrow, he’ll end 2013 with only one tournament win, his worst season since 2001. The sixth seed has lost three of his four most-recent matches against del Potro, though holds a 14-5 career advantage, including a quarterfinal win at the Paris Masters last week.

“That win for me in Paris psychologically was very important,” Federer told reporters yesterday. “I truly believe my confidence is higher, and that’s what I need to beat the best, and Juan Martin is part of that group.”

Nadal secured his semifinal berth two days ago and finishes group play today against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, who like Berdych has a 1-1 record and can also qualify from Group A, faces the already eliminated Ferrer of Spain.

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