World number three Alexander Zverev is coming off his best ever Grand Slam showing, having reached a quarterfinal at this year’s Roland Garros. To kick off his Wimbledon event, the number four seed has a first round match up against world #748 James Duckworth. The Australian has been a top 100 player for large periods of his career, but has seen his ranking drop significantly following two injury-riddled years. Will he be able to spring the upset or will Zverev prove too strong?
These two have met on just the one occasion so far in their careers. That match up came back in 2014 at the Heilbronn II Challenger, played on clay. In that match, it was Zverev who got the victory, winning 6-4 6-3 in a match which was tighter than the final straight sets scoreline suggested. Both had ample opportunities to break the others' serve, but Duckworth was unable to convert any of his five break points, ultimately costing him the match.
Last time out
Zverev had a poor start to the grass court season at the Halle Open in Germany, where he has twice made the final, being knocked out in straight sets in the first round by then-world #34 and eventual champion Borna Coric. Prior to that though, he had a good run at Roland Garros, winning through to his first ever quarterfinal. That run could have been a lot shorter, however, as he won each of his second round, third round and fourth round matches in five sets.
Duckworth has played very little tennis so far this season, but managed to get a few matches under his belt at the Turkey F22 early in June. He made his way into the final of that tournament, but was forced to retire early in the second set. Prior to that he lost to world #4 Marin Cilic in the first round at Roland Garros where he played on a protected ranking. That was a straight sets loss, but a tight one; he ultimately went down 3-6 5-7 6-7.
How do they match up?
Both of these players possess similar game styles, which probably bodes well for Zverev. They are both aggressive baseline players, and each of them boasts a big serve. Zverev is also known for his huge second serve, which regularly pushes above the 130 mph mark. His backhand is also one of the very best in the game, with the German striking his two-hander harder than almost anyone else on Tour.
The main problem for Duckworth in this match up is that Zverev is essentially a better version of himself, and the Australian will find it hard to assert himself against the more highly ranked German. Both of these guys enjoy the pace of the grass court, but Zverev will likely be able to capitalise on this fact more than his opponent due to his greater power off the ground. The match likely won’t see a lot of breaks, and it wouldn’t surprise to see a tiebreak or two.
Zverev is the better player and is more match-sharp than his opponent, making it difficult to see Duckworth offering a sustained challenge to the German. Courtesy of his strong serve, however, Duckworth won’t go down easily. Zverev won’t be able to blow him out in any given set, but the German will be too strong when it matters most, enabling him to head to the second round with a tight straight sets win.