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Alexander Zverev finished the 2018 season with a bang, winning the biggest title of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals. That helped the German finish at year-end World No. 4.Even though he was unable to maintain that momentum in 2019, Zverev managed to qualify for the season finale for the third consecutive year, and he showed some of his best tennis — including a straight-sets win against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal — to reach the semifinals in London. He closes out the campaign at World No. 7.“To finish the year No. 7 in the world, for me, with all the things that happened to me and with all the things that were happening is actually quite incredible. I didn't think I would. In that point, you can see it in a very positive way,” Zverev said. “Of course, I was very disappointed, because I wanted to win more tournaments. I wanted to play better at the big tournaments.”Zverev triumphed in Geneva this year for his 11th ATP Tour trophy, and finishes the season with a 44-25 record. It is the fourth straight year in which he has eclipsed the 40-win mark.“After the US Open I started playing much, much better. I hope I can take that into next season, and we will see,” said Zverev, who made the semi-finals of the China Open and then the championship match of the Rolex Shanghai Masters following a fourth-round showing in Flushing Meadows.Zverev entered his clash against Dominic Thiem on Saturday with plenty of confidence following a must-win match that he triumphed in on Friday against Daniil Medvedev. But he was unable to find the same level against the Austrian star, who advanced to his first final at this event.“The match was, I thought, pretty even. Dominic obviously played very good from the baseline,” Zverev said. “But today I was playing with no returns, actually. I was returning really bad and didn't put a lot of pressure on his serve. And when I did, he was coming out with good serves, good points. Credit to him. I played a bad game in the second set, and that match was over a few games later.”Zverev was one of four 23-and-under players to compete at The O2 this week. Two of those four (Zverev and Tsitsipas) made the semi-finals, and the German believes there will be more success for the sport’s rising stars in 2020.“I think next year will bring a new Grand Slam champion. We'll see who that will be, because I think the young guys are playing incredible tennis,” Zverev said. “It can be Daniil, it can be Stefanos, it can be Dominic. I'm in the mix, as well, I hope. We'll see what next year brings. But I think for the young guys, it's going to be an exciting year.” .videoWrapper { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; /* 16:9 */ padding-top: 25px; height: 0; } .videoWrapper iframe { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who will play on Sunday for the Nitto ATP Finals title, have already competed six times in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Thiem leads 4-2) and been Laver Cup teammates for Team Europe.But their relationship began in 2016 in a much more nondescript place – a practice court at The O2. Thiem was making his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals, and Tsitsipas was a baby-faced practice partner, wide-eyed and in awe of the top players on the ATP Tour.If Tsitsipas thought then, at the age of 18, that he'd be playing in the season finale title match only three years later, that would make him the only 2019 finalist who had such confidence.“It's amazing story for both of us, because probably both of us, we didn't think that only three years later we were going to face each other in the final,” Thiem said."A little bit more and I'll end up playing with all the players from the ATP World Tour Finals."This was @StefTsitsipas in 2016 as a hitting partner for @ThiemDomi.Tomorrow, the two will face off in this year's final ??: Stefanos Tsitsipas (IG) | #NittoATPFinals pic.twitter.com/kJCv3nyxQr— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 16, 2019The Austrian secured his place in his first Nitto ATP Finals title match with a 7-5, 6-3 win against defending champion Alexander Zverev on Saturday evening. Tsitsipas beat six-time champion Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4 earlier on Saturday.“He really deserves it. He's a good person. He's a very good player with a very attractive style to watch, so it's good to have him,” Thiem said of Tsitsipas. “We have a great time outside the court. But once we take the step on the court, it's a battle and we forget for two, three hours, our friendships.”The 26-year-old paid attention to Tsitsipas' level during their practice and was even more impressed last year when they played on the ATP Tour for the first time.“There I saw and I also felt his amazing potential. Then at the end of the year [2018], already he was No. 14 or 15, and then everybody could see where his direction goes, only up, only in absolute world class,” Thiem said.Winning the Nitto ATP Finals title would be the biggest title for either player, and it also would mark a drastic improvement from where each of them finished the season 12 months ago.Thiem finished 1-2 in group play and did not advance to the semi-finals at the season finale for the third consecutive year. Tsitsipas won the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan (d. De Minaur).In fact, before this season, Thiem had won 11 titles but only two on hard court. This year, however, Thiem has won five titles, including three on hard court, and he could add his biggest yet on Sunday.“I made some little changes through the year, like my forehand, I shortened up the swing a little bit, which helps me, especially on the faster surfaces. And then I also made some little changes at serve and then return,” Thiem said.“I really hope that I can continue my great level of tennis in 2020, and now I have the feeling that my game is really moving in the right direction.”

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