Zverev After Federer Win: 'The Race To London Is Very Important'
Alexander Zverev earned his first Top 10 win of the season on Friday, defeating Roger Federer in a three-set thriller to reach the semi-finals of the Rolex Shanghai Masters. The 22-year-old showed how much the victory meant to him after clinching the match, immediately turning around to his camp to let out a massive roar.
“It's my [expletive] time now!”
For one, it’s his time to make a big move in the ATP Race To London. Zverev, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, is now in pole position to book his spot at the season finale for the third consecutive year. After Stefanos Tsitsipas qualified on Friday, there are only two spots remaining, and Zverev is in seventh place in the Race.
“Obviously it was an important match. The head-to-head [against Federer] is obviously a great thing to have, but more importantly for me is it was a match to maybe turn my year around a little bit, and the Race to London is also very important,” Zverev said. “So I'm happy to be in the semi-finals now and give myself the best chance to win maybe two more matches here.”
It’s not that long ago that Zverev’s prospects of qualifying for London appeared in question. The German arrived in Montreal in August in 10th place in the Race.
But Zverev never panicked, even if he did not maintain the momentum of his victory from last year at The O2. This week in Shanghai, Zverev is into the semi-finals of an ATP Masters 1000 event or Grand Slam for the first time this year.
“You can always see things with the glass half empty or half full," Zverev said in Montreal. ”It has not been the best year for me, but I am still… competing for London and the biggest tournaments in the world. For me, the year can only get better.”
Zverev (2,615 points) knows his spot is nowhere near booked though, leading eighth-placed Berrettini (2,525) by just 90 points and ninth-placed Roberto Bautista Agut (2,485) by 130 points.
However, defeating Federer to take a 4-3 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series gives the German plenty of confidence heading into a crucial showdown against Berrettini in Saturday’s semi-finals, in which he can give himself more cushion in the Race.
“It helps a lot. I mean, obviously the five match points I had in the second set, them going away and still knowing that I can win in three sets is very important, especially against someone like Roger, because normally he doesn't let go of these kinds of matches,” Zverev said. “It was great and very important for me... going into the next few tournaments and going into the next few matches here is also going to be, I think, a big thing for me, knowing that I can win these kinds of matches.”
Perhaps most importantly, Zverev showed signs against Federer that he is getting closer to playing the tennis that helped him to the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals title. And that will be what pushes him back to London.
“[I am] finally starting to play the way I should play, really. I was playing really defensive the whole year round and was not with a lot of confidence,” Zverev said. “Finally maybe starting to play some better tennis and hopefully I can continue this way.”