2017 Rogers Cup Final Tweet-view: Roger Federer vs Alexander Zverev

Another patented @tennispig #TweetView for you, whether you know you need it or not. A preview of an ATP World Tour match in 12 tweets or less. Today, it’s the Rogers Cup final between Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev that takes center stage.

2017 Rogers Cup SF Preview: Alexander Zverev vs Denis Shapovalov

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Alexander Zverev can make it two straight finals with a win over Canadian wild card Denis Shapovalov. The 18-year-old has been the story of the last few days after upsetting top seed Rafael Nadal and moving into the semifinals. He is the youngest player to contest a Masters 1000 semifinal in ATP World Tour history.

(4) Alexander Zverev vs (WC) Denis Shapovalov

Normally a 20-year-old making consecutive finals would be the big story, but 18-year-old Dennis Shapovalov has forced himself into the spotlight over Alexander Zverev this week. Shapovalov stunned Rafael Nadal in a three set thriller in the third round and then followed that up with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win in the quarterfinals over Adrian Mannarino. Oh and he also beat Juan Martin Del Potro in round two, albeit a pretty poor version of the Argentine. Shapovalov may not be playing the cleanest tennis, but he’s been bold and come up large at key moments this week.

As for Zverev, there has been no let down after taking the Citi Open crown last weekend. Zverev did struggle early against Richard Gasquet in his opener, but rallied past the Frenchman in a third set tiebreak. Since then, he’s rolled through a pair of straight sets wins over Nick Kyrgios and Kevin Anderson. Sascha has been broken just three times through three rounds with two of those coming in his opener. He’s been consistent, although not over powering on serve this week as he’s taken just over 70 percent of the total points played. He’s also been clinical in converting break points as the tournament has progressed. After securing just two breaks on eight chances against Gasquet, he’s scored six breaks on his last nine chances in the last two rounds.

Under Pressure

One of the things that has served Shapovalov well this week is his ability to contend with pressure. Obviously there is a lot playing the top seed in Rafael Nadal, a big name like Del Potro and then trying to get to a Masters semifinal. Even though he’s fallen behind, he’s shown the ability to keep grinding and found a way to get back into matches. Shapovalov doesn’t look like much physically as a stringy six footer without a lot of weight behind him. Still, his ground strokes have been breath taking at times this week, showing power and precision. His one-handed backhand has been a big weapon and he’s shown plenty of whip with his lefty forehand as well.

Zverev meanwhile has performed well under a different kind of pressure, the growing pressure of expectation. After winning the Citi Open last week, I’ll be honest – I didn’t expect him back in this position again. He had tough times turning around after titles earlier in the season, but has shown great growth mentally this week with another run towards a possible final. The real litmus test was his opener against Gasquet. Sascha certainly did not have his best, but buoyed by that now epic 49 shot rally late in the match, he fought off multiple match points and found a way to win. That’s the makings of a great player – not playing your best, but grinding out positive results.

Match Tactics

Despite seemingly playing with unending confidence and never, this could be a really nervy spot for Shapovalov. He’s one step away from his first ATP level final and it’s in his home country. Up until now, he’s been playing with house money. He’s not the favorite obviously, but there is now a certain expectation placed on him after following up the Nadal win with a win. If I’m Sascha Zverev, I try to expose those nerves early and often. That means Sascha needs to start with his serve in rhythm to put pressure on his Canadian counterpart to match him. Shapovalov has been doing enough on serve to win, but there have been opportunities missed by his opponents. The Canadian has seen 22 break chances against him the last two rounds, but managed to save 17 of those chances. With Zverev converting at a high clip, Shapovalov will need to do better and allow less looks at breaks.

He can do that with good variety and placement on his serve. Having not played Zverev, it should be advantageous to him early. Vice versa, Zverev should have an edge serving early as well with both players trying to get a measure of the other. The longer Shapovalov can go without letting Sascha see break chances, the better his confidence will be that he can keep contending. He went after Mannarino’s backhand return to help set up better court position on Friday, but he may not get that luxury with Zverev as a better quality returner. If Zverev is able to get good returns on serve, then Shapovalov will want to move himself into a centered position on the baseline. That’s where he’s done a lot of damage this tournament with the ability to hit the ball inside-put off either wing from this position.

For me, Zverev has the edge if the battle involves more movement along the baseline. He’s shown the ability to hit winners on the run consistently. Shapovalov has good movement, but I’m not sure if he can consistently hit winners moving east to west. He does however possess very good skills north to south from what I have seen and he looks comfortable at net. Zverev is good there as well, but as he prefers to stick to the baseline, Shapovalov might look to force him in a few times to see how that works.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

Everyone will be eager to see if Shapovalov can keep his run going. He’s obviously beaten really good players this week, but I think to that end, players who have made plenty of mistakes to keep him in matches. I think if Zverev continues zoned in as he’s been for the better part of two weeks, Shapovalov will meet his match. That’s not to suggest that Shapovalov can’t raise his level and score another upset, but I think Zverev is a guy playing with confidence and precision. Del Potro was not. Nadal made some strategic mistakes to me in staying too far behind the baseline on return and Mannarino simply didn’t have the power and precision to take the best advantage.

Credit to Shapovalov for beating those guys and taking advantage of those things and proving that he can contend with his own weapons. The feeling for me however is that Sascha has too much in all departments if he employs solid strategy in this one. I could see Shapovalov taking a set with Sascha having to figure out the young Canadian’s game, but in the end, I see Zverev advancing to his sixth final of the season.

Prediction: Zverev wins in three sets

2017 Rogers Cup SF Preview: Roger Federer vs Robin Haase

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Roger Federer is one win away from his first Rogers Cup final since 2014. Federer takes on Robin Haase, who is playing in his third semifinal of the season.

(2) Roger Federer vs Robin Haase

Federer looked much better in the quarterfinals as he came in off a somewhat shaky performance at-times against David Ferrer. In the quarters, he took down another Spaniard in Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4. Federer’s serve was improved, taking 81 percent of the points off the first and 73 percent off the second. The Swiss was broken once on three chances. That was a big area of improvement after Ferrer saw 13 break chances against Fed and converted three of them.

Haase won in three sets for the second straight round as he rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Diego Schwartzman. Haase’s first serve was lethal, winning 84 percent of the points. That helped him overcome a large struggle on second serve, where the Dutchman won just 11 of 35 points played. That was in line with his opponent with Schwartzman also unable to find the range with his second serve with Haase taking 23 of 36 points played. Haase broke the Argentine six times on 14 chances, while saving three of seven break points against his serve.

First Meeting Since 2012

Federer and Haase have met just once and it came in Davis Cup play five years ago on clay. Federer won 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Obviously in this spot, Federer is the heavy favorite. Give Haase credit this week for putting together a nice stretch on a surface that traditionally has not been too kind to him. Haase’s serve has been an unexpected helper en route to the semifinals with 39 aces through four rounds. He has been broken seven times overall.

Federer had two Fed-like wins over Peter Polansky in his opener and then against Bautista Agut in the quarters. Sandwiched in between was what looks like an anomaly with the poor showing against Ferrer. His serve was not effective consistently in that one and the bigger issue was an error-prone ground game that plagued him in key moments. That allowed Ferrer to take the opening set before Federer found better over the last two sets. Perhaps it gives the field some hope that the Swiss is still human if nothing else.

Match Tactics

For Haase to have any chance to contend well against Federer, he’s got to flash that big first serve that has led him to this point. Aces will be welcomed. The Dutchman is adequate off the ground with a decent forehand and two-hander off the backhand side. Of the few times I have seen him, Haase doesn’t seem to have a great variety from either wing. He does hit the ball solid though and he will stay in rallies. I think he’ll want to test the Federer backhand as most try and see how solid it is on Saturday. Any time Haase can get the Swiss into extended rallies will be a bonus, especially with Fed doing everything he can to keep points short and sweet.

For Federer, if his serve is solid, he’s difficult to break down. If he is hitting his serve with power and precision, he’s putting his opponent into poor positions on return. That in turn will set him up to move to net and finish off points quickly and more often than not, effectively. Haase isn’t bad at the net, so Federer will need to make sure he’s choosing wisely or the Dutchman does have the volley skills to respond. As usual, expect Federet to get around to the forehand as much as possible in longer rallies where he is most comfortable.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

Federer finds himself in the pole position with the slew of upsets this week and I would bet he’ll be very focused in this match with the prospects of Alexander Zverev being his likely finals opponent. As long as Fed doesn’t come out of the gates slow or nervy, it’s difficult to see Haase troubling the Swiss in the end.

Prediction: Federer wins in straight sets

2017 Rogers Cup R3 Preview: Alexander Zverev vs Nick Kyrgios

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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

2017 Rogers Cup R2 Preview: Kei Nishikori vs Gael Monfils

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Kei Nishikori opens his campaign in Montreal against Gael Monfils. This is the fourth career meeting between the two with Nishikori taking all three of the previous meetings. Monfils has taken a set in each of the losses.

(5) Kei Nishikori vs Gael Monfils

Rest definitely will have helped Kei Nishikori after he looked gassed in his final two matches at the Citi Open last week. Nishikori lost in the semifinals to eventual champ Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4. He was made to work hard in just about every match last week as his ground strokes were off their normal level. Nishikori made a ton of unforced errors #KeiSpray and he was not as efficient converting break points as we often see him. He did force 36 break points, but converted on just ten. That 28 percent conversion clip is well below his season average of 43.

Monfils opened his Rogers Cup run with a three set win over Steve Johnson on Monday 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-1. After the slow start, Monfils was unbreakable on serve the rest of the way. Monfils’ second serve was the major flaw in the opening set, winning just two of eleven points played. He was broken twice on four chances. The second and third sets saw the Frenchman win 42 of 51 points played on serve with no break chances. Monfils said he had trouble moving early in the match, but felt much more “fluid” as the match progressed. Keep those comments in mind for Wednesday’s round two battle.

Monfils’ Snatches Defeat From The Jaws of Victory

Of their three encounters in the past, two came last year on hard courts in Miami and Rio at the Olympics. Both times, Nishikori edged Monfils in a final set tiebreak. Monfils isn’t far off from beating Nishikori obviously, but he’s got his issues in those big points. The most glaring of those losses as the Olympic loss where Monfils held a 6-3 lead in the tiebreak before Nishikori stunned him with five straight points for the win. The loss kept Monfils out of the medal round.

In Miami, Nishikori again fended off multiple match points (5) to secure the win. Monfils led 5-4 with Nishikori serving in the third set of that clash. Nishikori fell into a 0-40 hole, but dug out three times to stay on serve and eventually win it in the tiebreak. The way those two matches went against Monfils late, you have to figure there is some residual build-up in his brain that could come into play in this next chapter.

The Health Factor

There is no doubt that Nishikori and Monfils at 100 percent are scintillating shot makers who can beat anyone, but their bodies have been their biggest adversaries in their careers. Monfils has missed more time this season due to knee problems. Nishikori has had wrist and hip problems at times this season which have caused him to miss some time. Coming into this week, Nishikori certainly needed the off days in between D.C. and Montreal. He played some lengthy matches at the Citi Open and looked well worn out by the end of his run. Monfils as mentioned earlier complained that he had trouble loosening himself up early against Steve Johnson. So as usual, both players fitness levels will be something to watch on Wednesday.

Match Tactics

Serve is always going to favor Monfils in this match-up. He has easy power on his serve and can dominate the proceedings this way, when he’s in the zone. Nishikori is tasked with getting on the end of Monfils’ big first serve consistently. The man from Japan had a difficult time reigning in Alexander Zverev’s power in their semifinal clash last week in D.C., so it could be problematic for him if he’s less than 100 percent. Monfils will know that he should get some chances against the Nishikori serve, that’s just the way it goes with Nishikori’s serve not nearly as powerful. Monfils is converting 39 percent of the break points he sees this season. He converted three breaks on four chances against Johnson.

Nishikori will try to use variety as a way to get his serve going into a better pattern. At times, he does get a rhythm where he can dominate, but there were lots of service games in D.C. where he was fighting hard too many times. He needs some easier holds to conserve energy and stress. Even if he’s not getting cheap points, better accuracy and variety can help Nishikori win the court position battle. It’s imperative for him to get good position off his serve. Monfils is one of the handful of players who are as athletic as Nishikori and can match his movement when healthy. If Nishikori starts in good position, then he can work Monfils around the court and force him to make quicker decisions or bail out on points.

When these two go toe-to-toe along the baseline, you can expect some spectacular rallies at times depending on how well they are moving. You probably won’t see two guys who are better at hitting the ball on-the-run. Nishikori has the edge off the backhand side, while Monfils’ forehand is a missile. Both obviously have some consistency issues, so targeting their weaker wing will be a plus. I do think when Nishikori can get zoned into the center of the court, his backhand is a key advantage with the ability to hit it cross-court and down-the-line for winners. Monfils does that more sporadically.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

There are some questions coming into this one with Monfils at least having answered a few of his during that round one comeback against Johnson. Still, Monfils’ body from match to match is capable of a letdown, so I think he’s got to prove he’s feeling good early on. Nishikori’s return game was not on point late last week as he struggled to convert break chances against Tommy Paul and then really had no answeres for Sacha Zverev’s serve. That is a definite worry against Monfils who already has a match under his belt.

Nishikori has done well avoiding first-up losses this year with just one coming back in February to Thomaz Bellucci in Rio. This is a real challenge though in this spot, but Monfils has failed too many times against top ten players to feel overly confident of an upset. La Monf is 0-4 against the top ten this season and he’s lost ten straight dating back to his last top ten win. That came in 2016 over Milos Raonic at this event in Toronto. So that is 1-12 in 2016 and 2017 against the top ten. Maybe he changes his luck this time, but that trend says he finds ways to lose more often than he does to win.

Prediction: Kei Nishikori wins in three sets