Nitto ATP Finals 2019: Can Alexander Zverev defend his title?
Days before the start of the tournament or even hours before the start of his first match against Rafael Nadal, if someone had told Alexander Zverev that you can defend the World Tour Finals title, he would probably have struggled to believe it himself.
But, after his first match, where he defeated Nadal in two straight sets, 6-2,6-4, chances are high for Zverev to at least make it to the semis in the year-end championships. Let's not take away the fact that Rafa was not 100% match fit and was not able to play the way he wanted to. If you are a fan of Alexander Zverev, then you should know that his first serve percentage stood at 71% and he won 88% of points on the first serve.
Moreover, he didn't face a break point on his serve and won 3 out of the 4 break points offered to him by Nadal. For someone who is struggling to find form, these numbers seem pretty encouraging and if Zverev can build on this momentum, he might be able to repeat last year's feat and become a two-time winner of the World Tour Finals.
However, the route to glory is not that simple for the German as he has to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the next match at the round-robin stage and considering how Tsitsipas performed in the match against Medvedev, it will take a stringent effort from Zverev to beat the Greek and be assured of a place in the semis.
The last time Zverev played Tsitsipas was in the semi-finals of the China Open this year, where he was defeated by the Greek in straight sets, 7-6,6-4. Also, Tsitsipas has a comfortable lead of 3 wins in the four matches they played on tour to date.
The third match-up for Zverev will be against the Russian Daniil Medvedev and the Russian recently defeated Zverev to claim his first title at Shanghai Masters. Apart from this victory, Zverev had managed to win their previous four encounters that took place between 2016 and 2018. But Medvedev in 2019 is a completely different player and has become a tough nut to crack on the circuit.
The shaky form of Medvedev after his Shanghai triumph might be one of the positives Zverev will be looking at and even in the match against Tsitsipas yesterday, Medvedev looked a bit worn and exhausted. If Zverev manages to find a way to defeat Tsitsipas or Medvedev or both and earns the top spot in the Andre Agassi group, he could face either Dominic Thiem or Roger Federer in the semis. Zverev has found a way to beat Roger on multiple occasions, Zverev might look to implement the same attacking strategy that worked well for him in their recent encounter at Shanghai Masters. He will also have a sporting chance against Thiem.
But, if Zverev ends up in the second position from the group, he will most likely face Novak Djokovic, whom he defeated in the finals last year to claim his first-ever World Tour Finals title. As usual, Djokovic seems invincible and unlike last year, he was beaming with positivity in the fag end of 2019 as he won the Paris Masters before coming to the World Tour Finals and got a much-needed boost to claim the year-end number one ranking.
Be it Thiem/Federer or Djokovic, Alexander Zverev has to serve exceptionally well in all of his remaining matches to be on the winning side. Like Federer, a lot of Zverev's performances depend on his service games and he needs to fire his forehand as he did against Rafael Nadal yesterday.
Since the Laver Cup, Zverev was able to find positive momentum going into various tournaments as he managed to produce better tennis than he did until the US Open. While the path seemed very arduous for Zverev at the onset, the win against Nadal early in the tournament would have provided him the necessary momentum to go forward.