By Ros Satar, at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals
- Alexander Zverev  def. Roger Federer  7-5 7-6(5)
- Federer fans in crowd boo after controversial eighth point in tie-break after ball-kid drops a ball and Zverev stops play
LONDON, UK – Alexander Zverev stunned Roger Federer in straight sets, before the crowd turned on the German following a point being replayed after a ball-kid dropped the ball.
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Alexander Zverev  def. Roger Federer  7-5 7-6(5)
The dream of closing out the year with a 100th title is over as Roger Federer was stunned in straight sets by Alexander Zverev. Although this was another straight setter in a tournament where there has been only one that has gone the distance in the 12 round-robins, the quality was there throughout.
In an intensively competitive match the only break came as Zverev closed in for the kill for a break to love to seal the first set. Federer lost nine points in a row before finally finding his feet to hold and then break the young German to give the crowd hope that there was a fight on their hands.
Of course, this week we have seen Zverev’s quality of play fall away quite dramatically if things do not go his way, but he rallied immediately to break straight back to keep things competitive until the tie-break.
At a crucial point in the tie-break, Zverev halted in the middle of a rally after a ball-boy dropped a ball and it rolled into the court, causing the boy to run forward and pick it up. The umpire ordered the point to be replayed with Federer querying why with both the umpire and the hapless ball-boy.
Zverev hammered down an ace and a couple of points later beat Federer with a winner, but Zverev apologised at the net to Federer. Yet worse was to come as the crowd, perhaps unsure of what happened despite the umpire explaining why the point had to be replayed, started to boo Zverev leaving the 21-year-old German on the eve of the biggest title match in his career so far looking emotional.
Zverev said: “The ball boy dropped the ball in the middle of the rally then ran for it. Without even thinking, I stopped the rally, said it was a let. That’s how it is with the rules.
“Obviously the crowd didn’t appreciate it, which I was a little bit upset — not upset, but I was a little bit sad at the end with the booing and reaction of the crowd. Maybe they didn’t know what actually happened. That was maybe part of the reaction.
“But, you know, at the end of the day I said sorry to Roger at the net. He said, Look, you don’t even have to apologise. This is all part of the game. This happens.”
Zverev later admitted that he was a little more affected by the crowd’s reaction.
He continued: “I was really upset afterwards in the locker room, as well. I’m not going to lie. I had to take a few minutes for myself. But, you know, I hope the crowd and the people who were booing maybe look at what actually happened, maybe just realise that I’ve maybe not done anything wrong.”
Federer admitted that the decision to replay the point did affect him but that he was not mad at the ball-boy, nor did Zverev have anything to apologise for.
Federer said: “It’s a very difficult call. I didn’t see it. The umpire didn’t see it. But, you know, once the ball boy said that’s what happened, linesman confirmed, the umpire believes them, which is obviously true, what is there to be done? It’s normal to replay the point from that point on.
“It was obviously a big call. Instead of being in the rally in a decent position, you get aced, yes, it makes a difference. It could have made a difference. That’s all hypothetically speaking now at this point.
“I’m not questioning Sascha’s sportsmanship in any way. I think, like I said before, it’s a bold move by Sascha to stop the rally because the umpire can just say, Sorry, buddy, you’re in the rally. I don’t care. You lost the point. I didn’t see it.
“That’s where I just wanted to double-check with the umpire, what is the situation. But not for a second there was a sportsmanship situation there. It was just totally an umpire’s decision with the ball kid and the lines person, as well, just making sure they got the facts right.”
When asked about the largely partisan crowd that seems to materialise for Federer’s matches, especially at the season-ending finale, Federer again defending Zverev.
He continued: “I understand the frustration. It’s just unfortunate circumstances. These things happen. Booing, I never like it. We see it in other sports all the time, but in tennis it’s rare. So when it happens, it gets very personal and we take it very direct.
“I think it’s unfortunate that this happened. Sascha doesn’t deserve it. He apologised to me at the net. I was like, Buddy, shut up. You don’t need to apologise to me here. Congratulations on a great match and a great tournament so far. All the best for the finals. And you move on.
“He shouldn’t be apologising. He didn’t do anything about it. He just called it how it was. He felt it affected play. There is a rule that if something like this happens, obviously you replay points.”
The title match for the Nitto ATP Finals will be played on Sunday, not before 6pm.
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