In a battle of the young guns in Toronto, defending champion Alexander Zverev takes on Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. Zverev has had another strong year, winning the title in Madrid and reaching finals in Miami and Rome, as well as making his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Paris. Medvedev has somewhat fallen out of the ranks of the game’s bright young stars, but could do much to enhance his reputation with victory here. Who will come out on top?
This will be the fourth meeting between Zverev and Medvedev and it is not a matchup that the Russian has enjoyed much success in so far. Their first clash came two years ago in St Petersburg in the second round. Zverev won 6-3 7-5 and went on to win his first title later in the week. Zverev beat Medvedev again a year later in Washington and again went on to lift the title. He made it a hat-trick of victories this March in Miami, but it was a narrow win with Zverev prevailing 7-5 in a third set tiebreak.
Path to the third round
Zverev, the second seed in Toronto, enjoyed a first-round bye. That afforded him valuable rest after his title defence in Washington where he defeated Australia’s Alex De Minaur in the final. He thus began his Canadian Open title defence against the qualifier Bradley Klahn, who had beaten the veteran David Ferrer 7-6 6-4 in the first round. But whilst David Ferrer looks to be coming to the end of his career, Zverev is at the very beginning of his and he dispatched the American 6-4 6-4.
Daniil Medvedev was without the benefit of bye or a seeding and opened his campaign in the qualifying. There he beat Norbert Gombos 6-3 6-0 and Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 6-4 to reach the main draw where he was faced the struggling Jack Sock. He heaped further misery on the American with a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win to set up a clash with the talented Felix Auger-Aliassime on the Canadian’s 18th birthday. Medvedev denied him 3-6 6-4 7-6 in a heartbreaker for Auger-Aliassime.
How do they match up?
Zverev is one of the most impressive offensive baseliners in the men’s game. Indeed, owing to the seemingly inexorable decline of Tomas Berdych, absent with a back injury, and the uncertain future of Stan Wawrinka, returning from a knee injury, he is probably the most impressive offensive baseliner. His best shot is his two-handed backhand, which is awesomely powerful, but he can inject plenty of pace into his forehand and serve, though they do lack consistency.
Medvedev also favours his backhand, and when the Russian catches it sweetly it tends to stay hit. But unlike Zverev’s relatively safe two-hander, Medvedev’s backhand is very much a high-risk high-reward shot, in large part because he hits it with so little topspin. His forehand and serve are more reliable, but offer little attacking threat in comparison to his backhand. And when he does press with his forehand, he tends to flatten it out, leaving him in the same position as he is with his backhand.
Zverev is clearly comfortable playing in North America, having now won three titles in the last seven tournaments he has played on the continent, and making a further final. And whilst his win over Klahn was not one of his best performances, the result never really looked in doubt which is a good sign for him. There are players capable of stopping him in Toronto, chief amongst them Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. But is Medvedev one of them? Probably not. Zverev in straight sets.