2016 Citi Open: Alexander Zverev vs Taylor Fritz

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Two promising teens clash in the second round of the Citi Open on Wednesday. Alexander Zverev makes his 2016 debut in D.C. after making a surprise run to last year’s quarterfinals. Taylor Fritz won his first round match against Dudi Sela on Monday 6-4, 6-3 to get his first ever win at this tournament.

(7) Alexander Zverev vs Taylor Fritz
Zverev will be transitioning back from clay after participating in last week’s event in Hamburg. The 19-year old lost his lone match in straight sets. Outdoor hard courts have been a bit tricky for Zverev at his young age with more damage done by the teen on indoor hard courts this year. Outdoors, he is 4-3. He did have a nice run at Indian Wells, where he he made the fourth round and beat Gilles Simon and Grigor Dimitrov along the way. This will be just his second time on this summer hard court swing. Last year was a mixed bag with the Citi Open quarters and then losing in the first round in both Cincinnati and the U.S. Open after getting to the main draws through qualifying. This year he obviously will not mess with qualifying as he has sky rocketed inside the Top 30 due to a steady stream of solid results on all surfaces.

For Fritz, the round one win over Sela was a nice confidence booster. The 18-year-old had dropped his last three main draw matches at this level and stood just 3-8 since making the quarterfinals in Acapulco back in February. Against Sela, his big first serve lit up the court as the American won 80 percent of the points. He tallied eleven aces on the day and saved all seven break points that he faced. He will need to be a bit more consistent landing his first serve against Zverev as he was only putting in 54 percent of his first serves against Sela. That’s a few ticks off his season average and his second serve is by far, the easier for opponents to get into and win points.

Fritz has shown a shine for outdoor hard courts, winning a Challenger event to open 2016 and pushing Jack Sock to five sets at the Australian Open. The quarterfinal run in Acapulco was his second QF or better this season as he made the final indoors in Memphis prior to the event in Mexico. This figures to be a big learning experience and test for Fritz as he heads through this summer swing for the first time in his career. The courts should suit his big game, but he’ll need to prove that he can win against some of the best players on tour.

While Zverev and Fritz will be meeting for the first time on the ATP World Tour, they have met before in the junior ranks. At the 2013 U.S. Open, it was Zverev edging Fritz in the first round 6-3, 7-6 (2). Zverev was the more advanced of the two having already made the final of the juniors singles event at the French Open earlier in the year. Fritz would begin to showcase a better all-around game as a junior in 2014 and into 2015 when he won the U.S. Open juniors’ singles title. At that point however, Zverev had already notched a pair of semifinal finishes at the ATP level plus another quarterfinal run. As is the case now, Fritz is working on catching up to what could become one of his bigger rivals over the next decade if each continues to progress.

From a game standpoint, these two are going to go at it in similar fashion. They both want to be aggressive with their ground strokes and love to bash from the baseline. In today’s modern game, that has become the “norm” and is conducive to success, especially on these hard and quicker surfaces. Their overall numbers on serve for the season are very similar. Fritz has a slightly higher percentage of points won off his first serve at 73 versus Zverev at 71. They both win right around 50 percent off their second serve.

It is the return game that looks to be a decisive edge to Zverev at this point. He is winning about 24 percent of his opponent’s service games this season. That compares better than just 18 percent for Fritz. He also converts break points at a better clip, 44 percent to 34 percent for Fritz. Return could be the biggest factor in this match and of course, whoever makes better use of the break points against their opponent will be your likely winner.

Fritz will need his first serve to be on point against Zverev’s return to give himself a legit shot to pull off the upset. When he wins, the percentage of points won off his first serve approaches 80 or better. When he struggles, that number often dips near 70 or below. Zverev suffers from a similar plight with his service numbers. The second serve could be the biggest X-factor for both players in this one. Zverev’s second serve was obliterated in his Hamburg loss to Inigo Cervantes, where he lost 17 of 24 points. A likely winning formula sees one of these guys hitting above that 50 percent mark in terms of second serve winning percentage.

This is a big test for Fritz, who has struggled to get wins against players inside the Top 30. His best this season was a win over Steve Johnson, who was ranked #32 at the time, in Memphis. Zverev has been able to beat some top tier guys already this season, but will need to prove he can do it on hard courts. A switch from grass at Wimbledon to clay at Hamburg and now to hard courts in D.C. isn’t the easiest of schedules for Zverev, so Fritz could take advantage of Zverev getting familiar with match play here again. Still, the end result says Zverev has the better all-around game still at this point and should grind out a result. However, if Fritz can get into a rhythm on his first serve, look out because that is when he can be dangerous and threaten for the upset.

Prediction
Zverev wins in three sets

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