In a battle between the young guns, defending champion and third seed Alexander Zverev takes on Alex De Minaur, appearing in his second final of the season, with the prize the Washington Open title. Zverev has had another impressive, if slightly inconsistent season, crowned by the Madrid title and a run to the French Open quarterfinals. De Minaur, meanwhile, has announced himself to the Tour and promises much. But who will lift the title?
Zverev and De Minaur, separated by two years, have never before met on Tour, but they have faced off in Davis Cup action. That match came in the first round tie between Germany and Australia in Brisbane earlier this year and it was a thriller. Zverev edged it, winning a deciding set tiebreak to triumph 7-5 4-6 4-6 6-3 7-6. It gave the Germans a lead they did not relinquish as they advanced 3-1 winners thanks to victory in the doubles and a further Zverev win.
Path to the final
Zverev, the top seed, received a first round bye and thus began his campaign against Malek Jaziri who he hammered 6-2 6-1. That set up a meeting with his elder brother, their first on Tour, and it was the younger Zverev who advanced, winning 6-3 7-5. He then rallied past Kei Nishikori, recovering from a set down to win 3-6 6-1 6-4 to reach the semifinals where he faced 19-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas. It proved a one-sided affair as Zverev won 6-2 6-4.
Alex De Minaur began his tournament with a comeback win against 2014 finalist Vasek Pospisil, who wilted badly in the heat in a 7-6 2-6 3-6 loss. De Minaur backed that up with a 6-4 7-5 victory over Steve Johnson and an impressive 6-2 4-6 6-2 win against Hyeon Chung to reach the quarterfinals where he was due to face Andy Murray. The Scot withdrew sending De Minaur into the last four where he overcame Andrey Rublev in three, saving four match points en route to a 5-7 7-6 6-4 win.
How do they match up?
Zverev is amongst the most powerful players on the Tour. His biggest weapon is his two-handed backhand which is one of the best in the game. His forehand, whilst similarly powerful, is less reliable than his backhand, but he has been hitting it with confidence in Washington and his serve has also been effective. Zverev has also been playing well in the forecourt all week, and he would do well to continue to come into the net against De Minaur.
The reason for that is because De Minaur’s excellent court coverage will make it hard for the German to hit through him from the back of the court. He is not blessed with the sort of weaponry that Zverev possesses, but he is impressively consistent and will not hit many unforced errors. He may, however, need to up the ante against Zverev, as if he plays too conservatively he will likely end up giving the defending champion rhythm.
De Minaur has done much this week to demonstrate just how bright a future he may have in the game if he continues to develop. But he will face a similar problem against Zverev as did Tsitsipas in the semifinals. That is that Zverev is two years further along in his development, which gives him a significant advantage. His greater experience and bigger game will overwhelm the young Australian and expect him to complete the defence of his title in straight sets.