The rain-plagued AEGON International is scheduled for a flurry of activity on Thursday as they try to squeeze in matches and stay on schedule. One of the first matches of the day is second round action between Mischa Zverev and Bernard Tomic. The two have not met in their ATP careers.
(6) Mischa Zverev vs Bernard Tomic
Zverev was able to get away to a winning start in a tight contest against Ryan Harrison that was completed on Wednesday. The German edged Harrison 6-4, 7-6 (9). Zverev was steady, winning 77 percent of his first serve points and 65 percent off his second serve. He was broken just once on four tries, tallying five aces and six double faults overall. The win rates off his serve are on-par with what Mischa showed in both Stuttgart and Halle. The ability to win a high percentage off his second serve is a continued and good trend for the 29-year-old.
Tomic got in his first round match against qualifier Norbert Gambos on Monday, meaning he will have had two days off since beating the Slovak 7-6 (3), 6-3. His serve numbers were solid, taking just over 70 percent of the overall points off his serve. The 71 percent win rate off his second serve was especially encouraging. He was broken once on three chances. He had six aces compared to two double faults. It was a steady showing an much improved over his poor show against Richard Gasquet at Queen’s Club last week. He lost 6-3, 6-3 and was putrid on his second serve (33% win rate) and below average at 62 percent on his first serve. He was broken four times on five chances.
Tomic The Tank Engine
The rain this week really puts a lot of these players in a pickle, not that guys like Tomic need much of a shove to consider whether they want to be at a tournament for an extended period or not. The rain delay of the past two days means the winner of this match will pull double duty (weather permitting) on Thursday. That means logically that you have to ask yourself who may be willing to put in that effort and who may not?
The tricky part of deciphering that is that when you think you think you know someone’s tendencies, you find out that they don’t always follow them. For Tomic, you’ve seen and read it a hundred times over about the history of matches in which he’s given zero actual f*cks. The automatic thinking is why would someone who has a history of tanking be willing to produce two matches of effort in the week prior to a Grand Slam?
That’s good thinking. It’s also dangerous thinking because honestly – there’s not much between the ears for the Aussie – so a hot whisper of “win the tournament” could just as easily get caught in there for a nanosecond. There’s also the danger that you get a “full” effort from Bernie in the first match and then he goes “Barnyard” to ditch out of match two, which would come against the winner of Gael Monfils vs Cameron Norrie.
So I progress with caution as if this will be on the up and up, but always suggest you draw your own conclusion in these muddied conditions before a Slam.
From a tactical standpoint, this could be interesting. You have Zverev who loves to serve and volley, whereas Tomic is a baseline hugger. One would think that the effort level of the Aussie will be easy to spot when Zverev goes aggressive and comes to the net. Tomic hasn’t particularly played a ton of players on grass who employ that tactic, so I am intrigued to see his response. Intrigue may lead to straight *eye roll* hell if he goes into “Tomic The Tank Engine” mode.
If Tomic positions himself properly off his return, he has the weaponry to be a pest to Zverev. His length can help him cover some of that volleying near the net and Tomic doesn’t necessarily need to come all the way in to be effective. Rather, if he comes in a foot or so off the baseline, he would give himself better positioning. There, he can either respond to volleys with shots at the net or to try passing shots as Zverev hugs the net. If he doesn’t fully engage in this one, then you’ll see plenty of flat footed “Barnyard” as Zverev sends shots past him.
One way for Tomic to negate having to effort 100 percent against the Zverev serve and volley is serving well himself. Despite his 6’5″ stature, Tomic doesn’t serve big enough for my tastes at a consistent level. Then again, you can pretty much just say from a talent standpoint, Tomic doesn’t play at a consistent level for anyone’s tastes. I digress. With his size and on this surface, he should get more free points if he’s locked in on serve. That in turn gives him chances to take off some points and to pick his spots to come in against Zverev.
As for Zverev, he wants to continue to serve well to start. It’s been a big part of his formula for success on German grass. Now, he wants that to continue to translate to the grass in the U.K. He has to serve well to be able to deliver on his serve and volley tactics. That means hitting his spots in order to craft himself into good position at the net to finish points off quickly and effectively. When he does stay back, Tomic should have the advantage. Zverev doesn’t particularly wow you with his ground strokes. They are solid, but the Aussie has more power to utilize from the back of the court. That’s why you’ll see Mischa in as much as possible to enhance his chances of winning.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
Zverev’s record on grass outside of Germany in the past two years is poor. His win in round one here was his first non-German grass court win in a main draw since Wimbledon in 2009. That is surprising given his serve and volley tactics, but also shows that perhaps he’s just begun executing them better with age. Andy Murray can attest to that from Australia earlier in the year.
I think the serve and volley style can annoy players who we generally think of as lazy and “Tomic The Tank Engine” is one of those guys. Still, grass has suited Tomic’s game better than any other surface, especially in a non-Australian setting. Tomic has talked openly recently about how he was suffering from burnout in the first part of the season. The 24-year-old says sometimes he feels like he’s 30 already because of the amount of tennis he’s played on tour at a young age. He said he’s just beginning to feel better now and looking for that one tournament where he can “get his energy back” and pick himself back up.
is that Eastbourne? Your Pig told you he had one of those dumb feelings this week that the Aussie might show up with something more than a one and done or two and barbecue. I’m gonna keep the needle on all-day doofus and take Tomic in three to win here and then probably rev the engine up if double duty is called upon for Thursday.
Prediction: Tomic wins in three sets