'No need to apologize': Federer defends Zverev after controversial incident in ATP Finals defeat
Zverev defeated Federer in straight sets 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) in their semi-final match at the O2 Arena, with the German winning the second set, and the match, after a tense tie-breaker. It was during that crucial tie-breaker that the controversial incident occurred as Zverev stopped mid-point after a ball boy dropped a ball.
The umpire, who did not see the incident, ruled that the point should be replayed, and the German promptly fired an ace past a frustrated Federer to win the replayed point.
And after Zverev went on to close out the tie-breaker and win the match, he met with Federer at the net and apologized for the momentum-halting incident.
Speaking on court after the incident, Federer said he placed no blame on his opposite number, saying these incidents sometimes happen in tennis.
"I understand the frustration," said the Swiss star.
"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."
Federer went on to reveal the conversation between the pair at the net at the conclusion of the match, where the young German apologized.
"He apologized to me at the net," he said.
"I was like, 'Buddy, shut up. You don’t need to apologize 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 apologizing. 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."
Despite his classy response to the incident, Federer admitted the incident played a major part in him losing the tie-break, and the match.
When asked if the incident affected him, he said: "Of course it did.
"It got replayed. I got aced. So, yes, it did affect me. 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."
But despite his frustration over the incident, Federer said he didn't believe there was any bad sportsmanship at play during the match, and said he hoped the fans would not boo Zverev in Sunday's final as a result of the incident.
"I'm sure he won't be booed coming out for the final, or at least I hope so," he said.
"It's not his mistake. I think people will be happy to see a good final tomorrow. I’m not questioning Sascha’s sportsmanship in any way."