It’s the hyped up match from Washington, D.C. that never materialized last week when Nick Kyrgios retired from the Citi Open due to injury. This time, we get the goods. This marks the third meeting between Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios this season with the Aussie owning a 2-0 advantage.
(4) Alexander Zverev vs Nick Kyrgios
Zverev narrowly survived a solid effort from Richard Gasquet in his opener on Wednesday. Zverev saved three match points en route to a mostly improbable 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (3) win. Sascha did receive medical treatment in the second set with his right ankle taped up. It did not seem to hinder him as the match wore on. Zverev’s serve was not quite as clean as we saw in D.C. last week, which again to me, was the best serving I have seen from the 20-year-old on a consistent basis in one tournament. He won just 70 percent of his first serve points against Gasquet, but did do good work on his second serve, winning 62 percent of the points. He was broken two times on seven chances. The best thing to take away from the match was his tenacity of refusal to lose late, when he was down those match points. People are still buzzing today about the 49 shot rally that Zverev closed off with a winner to save one of those match points.
As for Kyrgios, it’s been buzzsaw city through two rounds. That’s good news for the Aussie who hadn’t made it through one match without retiring in each of his previous three tournaments. He walloped Paolo Lorenzi on Wednesday in round two 6-2, 6-3. His serve was unbeatable as he won 96 percent off his first serve and 76 percent of the points off his second. He allowed his first break point through two rounds, but saved it. For the week, he has won 70 of the 80 points played off his serve. More importantly, his movement has looked good and obviously his shoulder has not been a problem so far.
Side Show or Main Attraction
This is the question for me going into this one. If you’ll recall in D.C. last week, Zverev was the one who started hyping a possible clash with Kyrgios at the Citi Open a round before it COULD have happened. The result? Kyrgios retired from his match against Tennys Sandgren the round prior to that potential match with a shoulder injury. Now with less hype – at least prior to its actual fruition – we do indeed get Sascha vs Nick, part three. They played twice earlier this season at the two hard court Masters in March. Kyrgios came out on top 6-3, 6-4 at Indian Wells and then 6-4, 6-7 (9), 6-3 in Miami.
The issue for Zverev in both meetings was keeping up with the Kyrgios serve. Quite simply, he could not. Zverev saw no break chances in either match, while NK secured five breaks of Sascha’s serve on ten chances. Certainly four months will have changed a little as Zverev’s serve has been better of late, but Kyrgios has shown this week again that his serve can be untouchable when he’s healthy, engaged and in rhythm.
The big question for me is whether this match showcases two young and talented players who want the win or two young and talented players who are interested more in trying to put on a show. There’s certainly nothing wrong with some entertainment value and Kyrgios brings that to the table whether you like him or not. I don’t mind him throwing in a tweener or two, but the hope is that he does it smartly and not in an uncalled situation where it can hurt him. I think the fact that both guys respect each other and are friendly should aid the cause for this to be more of a main attraction than a side show with shenanigans.
Sequel to the Sequel Might Not Be So Equal
As the third installment in this year’s trilogy between these two, it is interesting to note that Zverev did show improvement in their second meeting by taking a set. Still, there was not enough improvement on stopping Kyrgios’ serve to think that Zverev is going to have a better time of things today. Pile on top of that the lengthy match he played against Gasquet and whatever might be up with his ankle and this projected match that people want to see sizzle, could fizzle instead.
If Kyrgios is laying down bombs on serve as he has through two rounds, then it’s automatically putting Zverev at a disadvantage. We saw last week that Sascha can provide the necessary punch and power on serve, but it is the area where I think his game is the weakest still. The consistency is the issue and after the long week in D.C. and a taxing physical and mental game against Gasquet, he could be fatigued to start. It’s important for Kyrgios to note that and start and end this match with nothing but fire on his serve. Start quick. Hit big. Challenge Zverev to match that intensity.
There is no doubt that Kyrgios excels when he can maintain an aggressive rate of play from start to finish. When he gets his serve in rhythm, he fires and reloads as quick as anyone from point to point. Of course, this is also a hindrance when things go off from that game plan. He keeps his rate of play too fast still when things are not going right and it seems as if he slowed things down just a bit, he could regroup better. So far, it’s a lesson he has not really seemed to learn.
This is a comfortable match-up for Kyrgios though from a serve standpoint, so I would expect he will find success there again. It’s on Zverev to find some way to get his racquet on the Kyrgios’ serve and get the ball back into play. When Sascha can get NK engaged in rallies, I think the tide turns to the young German’s favor. He’s more solid off both wings, especially the backhand side. Despite the possible fatigue, I think Zverev needs to get into some longer rallies. They don’t need to be the 49 shot Gasquet rally, but Zverev is the more patient player here and I think that favors him in those situations. I think Kyrgios is still more likely to “bail out” early on long rallies and go for potential winners in poor court positions.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
The set-up in this one says Kyrgios. It is important to note though that he has not been challenged to do much this week besides serve and hit a few winners here and there. Zverev obviously can change that if he’s near 100 percent in this one. That’s part of the problem for me is that I’m not sure that he is considering the recent glut of match play and last night’s Gasquet finish.
I tend to think there is a chance Zverev could be flat in this match, especially if he can’t find success early. Sascha needs to at least go toe-to-toe with Kyrgios deep in the first set and not get blown off the court by the Aussie’s power serve. If he can’t find answers for Kyrgios’ serve, then this one could be done in straight sets.
Prediction: Kyrgios wins in straight sets