Alexander Zverev reached the eighth Masters 1000 semi-final in Shanghai two years ago, the first in 12 months. The German ousted a former champion Roger Federer 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in two hours and four minutes, moving into seventh place in the ATP Race after playing well in Beijing and Shanghai.
Zverev fired 17 aces and faced only three break points in the entire clash, suffering two breaks and stealing Roger's serve four times to move over the top and stay on the title course. Zverev was the dominant player on the court with 43 winners and 23 unforced errors, having a clear advantage in the shortest exchanges and controlling the pace in sets he won.
The match could have ended in straight sets, with five match points wasted by the younger player in the final stages of the second set, leaving them behind instantly and dominating the decider to topple a great rival and earn crucial points in a battle for London.
Serving at 78%, Alexander had the upper hand in the first set, dropping three points behind the initial shot and hitting 11 winners and six unforced errors to mount the pressure on Federer, who could not endure it. They produced eight commanding service holds, and Zverev earned one break at 3-2 with deep returns that took the rhythm away from Federer.
Alexander forged the advantage and closed the set with four service winners at 5-3 after just 27 minutes. They traded breaks in games two and three in set number two and delivered seven easy holds to stay locked at 5-5, with no room for errors for Roger in the remaining games.
Alexander Zverev defeated Roger Federer in three sets in Shanghai last year.
Serving in that 11th game, Federer suffered a break after Zverev's forehand winner, and the German had a chance to seal the deal in some 70 minutes.
It was not to be for him at that moment, though, as he wasted three match points in the 12th game and got broken after some incredible volleys from Roger, who leveled the score at 6-6 to set up a tie break. In the breaker, the Swiss fended off match points at 5-6 and 6-7 and closed the set with an ace to gather a massive momentum ahead of the decider.
It was not easy for Alexander to leave those five match points behind and start all over in the final set, but he did precisely that. The youngster held at 15 in the first game with a service winner and earned a break in the next one following a former champion's volley error.
The German grabbed the third game with a hold at love to open a 3-0 advantage and gained a couple of break chances in the fourth. Federer saved those to stay within one break deficit and erased another at 1-4 with a forehand winner before Zverev moved 5-2 up with a hold at love, getting closer to the finish line.
Serving for the triumph in the ninth game, Alexander held at 15 to bring the encounter home and advance into the semi-final, where he faced Matteo Berrettini.