Federer paired with Zverev in ATP Finals draw
Six-time champion Roger Federer was paired in the same group as German debutante Alexander Zverev for next week's ATP Tour Finals when the draw was made in host city London on Wednesday.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who is hoping to recover from a knee injury to play in the season-ending showpiece, heads the other group and will face Belgian David Goffin, Bulgarian debutante Grigor Dimitrov and Austrian Dominic Thiem.
Also in the Pete Sampras group with Federer is Croatian Marin Cilic, the man he beat in this year's Wimbledon final, and American Jack Sock who crept into the tournament after winning the Paris Masters.
Zverev, 20, has taken men's tennis by storm this year, rocketing up to No. 3 in the world rankings after winning five titles, including two Masters 1000 events.
"It's an honor to play there in London, it's my first time and hopefully not my last," Zverev said in Milan where he took part in an exhibition match at the Next Gen Finals, having dropped out to concentrate on London.
"I will try to prepare myself as well as I can and try to win many matches there."
He is one of three first-timers with Dimitrov finally qualifying after being long-predicted to become a regular member of the men's elite. Sock is the first American to qualify since Mardy Fish did so in 2011.
Goffin has qualified for the first time also, although last year he played a match as an alternate.
The draw, which took place on BBC Radio, was delayed because Boris Becker, who Nadal's group is named after, was held up by traffic on his way to the studio.
Several big names are missing this year through injury, including 2016 winner Andy Murray, four-time London winner Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.
Murray, meanwhile, believes he will be fit and ready to return to the ATP Tour by December 31 at the Brisbane International, The Associated Press reported.
He also thinks results will not come quickly, and aiming for the Australian Open title might be too ambitious. But he's sure he'll be challenging for major honors next year.
Murray hasn't played since the Wimbledon quarterfinals, where he limped out with a hip injury.
"When I get back on the court next year and start playing again, it might not come immediately at the beginning of the year," he said on Tuesday before a charity match against Federer in Glasgow.
"I have been hitting the ball very well in practice — it's just that there is a difference between that 75-80 percent practice and going flat out at 100 percent for 2 1/2 or 3 hours on the match court. Until I do that I can't say for certain, but I'll be able to come back just fine."
The two-time Wimbledon champion plans on getting to Australia early to acclimatize in a bid to offset his lack of sharpness, but he will not feel compelled to play if he is not totally fit.
"Things have been going pretty well so far in the rehab, but you just never know," said Murray, whose medical team chose rest and recovery instead of surgery.
"I've been training for a few weeks now. Some days I've felt great and some days not so good. I probably made a bit of a mistake trying to get ready for the US Open but it was the last major of the year and I wanted to give it a go. I'll come back when I'm ready."
Federer reinforced that message. He had a similar layoff last year after struggling with knee problems and came back rejuvenated, winning his first Grand Slam event for five years at Wimbledon and following it up with a US Open triumph.
He told Murray: "Take your time, however long it takes. When you come back you want to be at 100 percent, otherwise the problem is you feel you just can't beat the best at the big tournaments, so it's wise and worthwhile to take the extra week, extra month maybe.
"I'm sure Andy is going to have a lot of years left, so he shouldn't hurry, but as a professional athlete you always want to come back as quick as possible. You need to have goals but sometimes they need to be postponed."