Battling for a place in the ATP Cup semi-final on Rod Laver Arena, Germany dethroned Serbia 2-1 to remain on the title course. Jan-Lennard Struff came from a set down to beat Dusan Lajovic, and Novak Djokovic had to oust Alexander Zverev to keep Serbia alive.
World no. 1 prevailed 6-7, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 33 minutes for the fifth victory over the German in seven encounters. Djokovic had 29 winners and 27 unforced errors, losing serve once and putting pressure on his opponent after creating six break chances.
Alexander got broken four times, recovering his game in the decider but losing ground in the decisive moments to propel Novak through. Nothing could separate them in the opening set, with 12 commanding holds that led them into a tie break under a closed roof.
Zverev landed an ace at 6-3 to wrap up the opening part of the clash, hoping for more in set number two. They served well in the opening four games before Novak took charge and delivered the first break of serve at 2-2 with a deep return that Alexander failed to control.
Novak Djokovic beat Alexander Zverev in three sets at the ATP Cup.
After a couple of deuces in game six, the Serb confirmed the advantage and moved 5-2 in front with a perfect lob winner that brought him closer to the set.
Serving in game eight, Djokovic held with a service winner to introduce a deciding set, the must-win one for him. Giving his best to follow Novak's pace, Alexander stayed in touch in the opening eight games despite two games that went to deuce.
Novak secured the second game with an ace before Zverev blasted two powerful serves to grab the third game and remain in front. The German closed the fifth game with another unreturned serve, followed by a hold at 30 from Novak.
The Serb reached another deuce on the return at 3-3 before Alexander found two winners to open a 4-3 gap. Novak held at love in game eight and broke Zverev's serve a few minutes later to serve for the triumph. Alexander saved a match point in the tenth game and broke back thanks to Novak's volley error at the net.
It was not to be for the German, though, hitting a double fault in game 11 to hand the second consecutive break to the Serb. Making no errors this time, Djokovic held at 30 at 6-5 to move over the top and deliver the first point for his country ahead of the deciding doubles rubber.
Djokovic's effort was in vain, as Struff and Zverev edged him and Nikola Cacic to propel Germany into the semi-final.