Fixture: (6) Alexander Zverev vs Kei Nishikori
Date: 6 June 2021
Tournament: Roland Garros 2021
Round: Fourth round (Round of 16)
Venue: Paris, France
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Red Clay
Prize money: €17,171,108
Match timing: Not before 9 pm local time, 7 pm GMT, 3 pm EST, 12.30 am IST
Live telecast: USA - NBC Sports / Tennis Channel | UK - ITV | India - Star Sports / Disney+ Hotstar VIP
Alexander Zverev vs Kei Nishikori preview
Alexander Zverev meets a familiar foe in Paris on Sunday. The sixth seed will take on former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori for a place in the quarterfinals of the 2021 French Open.
Zverev entered Roland Garros on the back of his second Madrid Masters title, where he scored his third consecutive victory over Rafael Nadal - but for the first time on clay. In addition to defeating Nadal, the German scored two more top-10 wins in the Spanish capital - he beat Dominic Thiem in the semis and Matteo Berrettini in the finals.
Zverev's impressive streak was ended by Nadal himself a week later, in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.
If there's one man in recent times with whom you would associate five-setters, it is Alexander Zverev. True to his reputation, the 24-year-old got stretched to a deciding set in his Roland Garros opener by Oscar Otte. In fact, Zverev came back from a two-sets-to-love deficit before eventually overcoming his fellow German.
However, Zverev seems to be gaining in strength with each passing day. In the second round, he disposed of Russian qualifier Roman Safiulliin in straight sets, albeit with two tiebreaks. And on Friday, the German convincingly beat Laslo Djere to secure a place in the Round of 16.
Speaking of five-setters, the man on the other side of the net isn't a stranger to them either. And although presently unseeded, Kei Nishikori isn't one to be taken lightly.
The 31-year-old has had an up-and-down lead-up to this year's French Open. Currrently ranked 49th in the world, Nishikori has been unfortunate to draw strong players early on in the tournaments he has played.
In Barcelona, he beat Cristian Garin before losing to Nadal. The Japanese was then defeated by Zverev in both Madrid and Rome, but he notched up wins over Karen Khachanov and Fabio Fognini en route.
Nishikori has gone the distance in both his completed matches at this year's Roland Garros thus far. In the first round, he won alternate sets against Italian qualifier Alessandro Giannessi. And in the second round, he came back from two sets to one down to beat 23rd seed Karen Khachanov.
The 2014 US Open runner-up took to the court against Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen on Friday after having already played 10 sets of tennis over two matches. Most would have had questions about Nishikori's fitness, but surprisingly, it was Laaksonen who retired with an injury after losing the first set.
Alexander Zverev vs Kei Nishikori head-to-head
Alexander Zverev and Kei Nishikori have squared off five times against each other on the tour. Two of their meetings came during this year's clay season itself; the German won their match at Madrid for the loss of just five games, but had to rally from a set down to secure victory in Rome.
Alexander Zverev leads the career head-to-head against Kei Nishikori 4-1. And that number reads 2-1 in favor of the 24-year-old on clay.
On Sunday, the pair will meet for the first time in a Grand Slam.
Alexander Zverev vs Kei Nishikori prediction
Alexander Zverev entered the tournament at 2018 Elo, and his tournament-adjusted Elo is 2065. Kei Nishikori, on the other hand, entered the tournament at 1825 Elo, and his tournament-adjusted Elo is 1844.
The difference in their scores equates to a win probability of 78.11% for Zverev.
33 of Nishikori's 156 best-of-five-sets matches (21.15%) have gone to a deciding set, where the Japanese holds a 26-7 (78.79%) record. And 23 of Zverev's 83 best-of-five-sets matches (27.71%) have gone to a deciding set, where the German holds a 16-7 (69.57%) record.
Given their affinity for taking their matches down to the wire, we can expect another five-setter to be on the cards. And while Nishikori has the best fifth-set record among active players, Zverev isn't too shabby himself.
Considering the amount of tennis they have played, the form they're bringing in and the general matchup, we give the edge to the German. But Nishikori's experience at the Grand Slam stage should make it a compelling contest.
Zverev is expected to win around 67% of his service points and 22 games. Nishikori is expected to win around 61% of his service points and 17 games.
Prediction: Alexander Zverev to win in five sets.
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