Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a return to Alexander Zverev of Germany during their ATP World Tour Finals men's singles tennis match at the O2 arena in London, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Djokovic overcomes illness to progress at ATP Finals

November 14, 2018 - 4:38 pm
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LONDON (AP) — Novak Djokovic overcame an illness — and Alexander Zverev — to advance to the last four of the ATP Finals.

Despite requiring a tissue to blow his nose between points, Djokovic beat Zverev 6-4, 6-1 on Wednesday to earn a second straight victory at the season-ending tournament.

"Unfortunately today hasn't been great in terms of that (illness)," Djokovic said. "Somehow I managed to gather the strength when I needed it."

Djokovic's passage to an eighth semifinal at the tournament was confirmed when Marin Cilic defeated John Isner 6-7 (2), 6-3 6-4 in the late match.

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.

"Maybe he was a little bit sick or something like that," Zverev said. "But he still played like he felt at his absolute best. That's kind of all that matters."

With Zverev having defeated Cilic in the opening match of the round-robin, all three players still have a chance of reaching the semifinals for the first time.

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.

"If I made the break, it goes the other direction a little bit," Zverev said.

The German 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 in London 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.

Cilic ended a four-match losing streak at the O2 Arena as he came from behind to beat Isner, the hard-serving American who is making his debut at the tournament. It was the first match all week that went to three sets.

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