Defending champion Alexander Zverev will look to get his Washington Open campaign off to a good start against the dangerous Malek Jaziri. It has been a season of some impressive highs for the German, including winning a third Masters title in Madrid and reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Paris. But results have tailed off recently and he has 1500 points to defend over the next few weeks. Will Jaziri add to his concerns or will the world #3 have too much?
Zverev and Jaziri have met three-times so far in their careers, with all three matches coming in 2016. It was Jaziri who won the first, scoring an upset win against Zverev in Barcelona in straight sets 7-6 6-4 in the second round. Zverev had his revenge later in the clay court season, battling past the Tunisian 2-6 6-3 6-2 in first round action. Their third meeting in fact came in Washington, where Zverev again had to battle for the win, eventually claiming it 6-2 5-7 6-2.
Path to the second round
Zverev, as the top seed in Washington, received a first round bye and so will be taking to the court for the first time since Wimbledon. There his grass court campaign culminated in disappointment as after a bad loss to Borna Coric in the first round in Halle, he fell to Ernests Gulbis in the third round at the Championships. The German never really managed to find his best tennis, and despite at one point leading by two sets to one, his challenge quickly faded thereafter as he lost 6-7 6-4 7-5 3-6 0-6.
Jaziri, who lost in the first round at Wimbledon to Jared Donaldson, began his North American hard court swing last week in Atlanta, where he again fell in the first round with eventual semifinalist Cameron Norrie knocking him out in straight sets 7-5 6-0. That marked his third straight loss, but the Tunisian #1 snapped his losing streak against Evgeny Donskoy in Washington, beating the Russian 6-4 6-1 in an impressive performance.
How do they match up?
Zverev is one of the most dangerous attacking baseliners in the game. His two-handed backhand is his most formidable weapon, and it is unquestionably amongst the best in the game. Though he lacks the versatility of Djokovic and Murray on that wing, he strikes it with more power than either of them. His serve and forehand are also dangerous weapons when the German is hitting them well. But with both, when he is struggling, they have a tendency to break down under pressure.
Jaziri has little of Zverev’s power. Rather, he wins his matches thanks to impressive consistency from the back of the court and intelligent, accurate hitting. Indeed, his ability to isolate and attack an opponent’s weakness is one of his greatest strengths and explains much about his late-career resurgence. However, he will need to be at his defensive best in order to withstand Zverev’s power from the back of the court.
Though Jaziri does have a win over Zverev and has troubled him in their two other matches, a lot has changed since they last stepped on to the court to face one another. Namely, Zverev has gone from being a promising teenager to one of the game’s best. And though he can still be plagued by inconsistency, the court conditions in Washington suit him and he should be well-rested after nearly a month out. Zverev in straight sets.