World #5 Alexander Zverev faces off against former Miami finalist David Ferrer for a place in the fourth round. Zverev has had a disappointing start to the year, with a number of early losses including at the Australian Open and last time out in Indian Wells. He is also yet to win a title in 2018. Ferrer, however, looks to have found some form and gave del Potro a stern test last week. But who will reach the fourth round?
Zverev and Ferrer have met three times on Tour and it’s the Spaniard who leads their head-to-head by two matches to one. Their first encounter came four years ago in Hamburg when Zverev first announced himself to the tennis world. The young German went on a thrilling run at the ATP 500 event, upsetting a number of big names, including Mikhail Youzhny, making it all the way to the semis. But there Ferrer, still a top ten stalwart, had far too much, winning 6-0 6-1.
They met again in 2016 in the quarterfinals in Beijing shortly after Zverev had won his first career title in St Petersburg (defeated Wawrinka). But it was again the veteran Ferrer that triumphed, as he defeated Zverev in a hard fought three setter 6-7 6-1 7-5. But earlier this year Zverev got his first win against the former world #3 in Rotterdam. In their first round match Zverev was always on top and was fairly untroubled in a 6-4 6-3 victory.
Path to the third round
Both men, as seeds, received first round byes. That saw Zverev begin his tournament against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. The unorthodox 22-year-old is never an easy opponent, with his two-hander being a real weapon. Zverev managed to take the first set six games to four, but Medvedev was dominant in the second, winning it for the loss of just one game to level the match. They couldn’t be separated in the decider and a tiebreak ensued, but Zverev toughed it out to win it 7-5 and advance.
David Ferrer began his tournament against another Russian, Evgeny Donskoy. Donskoy had begun his tournament with an impressive win against Slovenian #1 Aljaz Bedene, defeating the higher ranked man in straight sets. But he found the tenacious Ferrer an altogether different proposition. Though Ferrer is not the force he once was, he is still an excellent competitor and his skills were on full display as he won 6-2 6-2.
How do they match up?
Zverev can play some of the best attacking tennis on Tour when he is at his best. His impressive performance in the Montreal final last season springs to mind, when the German hit through Federer with such power that the Swiss star was left with a back injury. However, he will need to find that sort of quality off the ground against Ferrer, as the 35-year-old remains an excellent defender, despite his advancing years.
It will be crucial for Zverev to take the upper hand in rallies early and avoid the attempts of his opponent to draw him into protracted baseline exchanges. Zverev has shown in the past he does not have the best mental and physical stamina and he will not want to have those qualities tested by Ferrer. There are few that are not found wanting by such an examination. Zverev will also need to serve well.
Ferrer is one of the better returners in the game, but can be vulnerable to being broken. He doesn’t have the chance to serve his way out of trouble. Zverev does. If the 20-year-old is able to keep Ferrer on the backfoot in his own service games, he should be able to exert more pressure on the Ferrer serve. It would also likely serve the German well to return as aggressively as he can from early on in the match, to force Ferrer to think more about his serves.
2018 has been a season of struggle for Zverev so far and that struggle will continue in Miami. He was not hugely impressive in his second round encounter with Medvedev and unless he can find a big step up in performance the resurgent Ferrer will be too tough of an opponent. The Spaniard is in fine form, and it has taken the power of del Potro to stop him at his last two tournaments. Ferrer in three sets.
Who do you think will win the match? Let us know in the comments below!