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 faced boos at the end of the match after he had – legitimately – stopped a point in the tie-break when a ball boy dropped a ball.
After Federer sealed his 99th career singles title in front of a home crowd in Basel last month, all eyes have been on when the great Swiss player will reach triple figures.
But rather then being able to celebrate becoming the first German since Boris Becker in 1996 to reach the final of a tournament ranked not far below the Grand Slams in importance, he was shamefully booed during his post-match speech.
With Zverev serving at 3-4 in the second-set tiebreak, Federer held sway in a baseline rally when his opponent shouted “hang on” and stopped the point after a ballboy dropped a ball at the far end.
The Swiss looked bemused but after Brazilian umpire Carlos Bernardes checked with the ballboy the point was replayed.
The Federer-loving crowd were in uproar, but Zverev composed himself and slammed down a 137mph ace to level the breaker at 4-4.
Federer then made a hash of an attempted drop volley at 4-5 — cue more bedlam in the crowd — and two points later Zverev sealed victory when he belted away a backhand drive volley.
Bizarrely, rather than bask in the glory of beating the 20-time Grand Slam champion on one of his favourite stages, the tousle-haired youngster ended up apologising for a situation not of his making.
“I want to apologise for the situation in the tiebreak,” Zverev said on court. “The ball boy dropped ball and it’s in the rules that we have to replay the point.
“I apologised to Roger at the net and he said ‘it’s okay it’s in the rules.'”
Boos rung around the arena again, forcing on-court interviewer Annabel Croft to spring to his defence.
“I’m not sure why you are booing, he is telling the truth,” she told the crowd. “The ballboy moved across the court and disrupted play. I think you need to be a little bit more respectful, they are the rules.”