Roger Federer must wait until 2019 for another chance to reach 100 career titles after semi-final defeat by Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals.
Zverev, 21, tipped by many as a future Grand Slam champion, triumphed 7-5 7-6 (7-5) at London’s O2 Arena.
He will face Novak Djokovic or Kevin Anderson, who play later on Saturday.
Zverev faced boos at the end of the match after he had – legitimately – stopped a point in the tie-break when a ballboy dropped a ball.
In scenes reminiscent of Naomi Osaka’s victory speech at the US Open when her win was overshadowed by Serena Williams’ outbursts, Zverev was left apologising to both the crowd and Federer after one of the biggest wins in his career.
“I apologised to Roger at the net already, he said it is OK and it is in the rules,” the world number five said.
“I’m sorry this happened. I didn’t mean to upset anybody.”
‘The Pretender’ beats ‘the King’
Former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, commentating for BBC TV, had said before the match between ‘the King and the Pretender’ that he believed Zverev was a future world number one.
With three Masters titles to his name, the young German has yet to make his mark on the Grand Slams – although his French Open quarter-final this year was a breakthrough.
But now he will get the chance to win the season-ending title, which is second only to the Slams in terms of prestige.
There were moments when Zverev seemed to show a bit too much respect for Federer.
His body shot at the Swiss in the sixth game of the first set was half-hearted and cost him a point, while he volleyed a ball that was well on its way out of the court in the next game – as if not quite believing that the great Federer was able to hit long.
But he oozed confidence when it mattered the most, setting up three set points on Federer’s serve in the 12th game.
Getting there had included a fantastic passing shot after he raced to Federer’s drop shot, and the roar that followed said it all.
He sealed the set when Federer hit a forehand wide and then kept the momentum going early in the second set when he immediately held to love.
The German was never going to get it all his own way, with Federer setting up three break points of his own with a stunning forehand on the line, and taking the game when Zverev could only get a racquet edge to the Swiss’ forehand.
But Zverev wasted no time in breaking back when a Federer forehand went wide and from then on they matched each other to set up the tie-break.
After setting up two match points, Zverev sealed victory on the second one with a fantastic backhand that Federer could not get anywhere near.
More to follow.