In the first fraternal clash on the ATP Tour since Jurgen and Gerald Melzer faced off in the Kitzbuhel quarterfinals two years ago, the Zverev brothers will meet with a place in the Washington quarterfinals on the line. Alexander, the younger of the two, is the defending champion in Washington and despite his youth, is already the world #3. But Mischa is a wily and dangerous operator and will surely be eager to get the win against his younger sibling. Who will come out on top?
This will be a first Tour-level meeting between the brothers, but it feels safe to say that there can be few players, if any, that know each other better. In terms of experience it is unquestionably the younger Zverev who has the advantage. Alexander has eight career titles to Mischa’s one, and a record of 154-81 to Mischa’s 128-176. But, they have twice played in qualifying for Futures events, and it is Mischa who won both matches although the most recent was four years ago.
Path to the third round
Alexander Zverev, as the top seed in Washington, received a first round bye. That saw him begin his tournament against Tunisian #1 Malek Jaziri, who had snapped a three-match losing streak in the first round by beating Evgeny Donskoy of Russia 6-4 6-1. But, in a match that was delayed overnight due to rain, Alexander Zverev dominated his opponent from start to finish. The outcome never looked in doubt as he advanced a 6-2 6-1 winner.
Mischa Zverev, seeded 15th, also received a first round bye and opened his tournament against American Tim Smyczek. Smyczek earned some notoriety after missing out on Wimbledon this year for the unusual reason that he failed to register for the qualifying. But that allowed him to start his hard court season early and he was in reasonable form coming into Wimbledon. But Mischa Zverev, despite squandering his first eight match points, had too much and won through 6-2 7-6.
How do they match up?
Despite being siblings, the two Zverev’s share little stylistically. Alexander prefers to dominate rallies from the back of the court using his powerful groundstrokes. His backhand is his best shot, and it is amongst the most dangerous on the Tour. His forehand does breakdown at times, but when he is hitting it well, as he did against Jaziri, it is an excellent shot. He also moves surprisingly well for such a big man and his court coverage continues to improve.
Mischa, in contrast, lacks his younger brother’s overawing power although he also favours his backhand. He uses an unorthodox, rather outmoded technique on his forehand and struggles to generate power as a result. But he makes up for his lack of power from the back of the court with a willingness to come to the net. His reflexes in the forecourt are excellent, and though he is not as good a volleyer as the likes of Llodra or Mahut, he is better than most.
This should be a fascinating clash, and an intense one given that family bragging rights are up for grabs. But there is a reason that it is the younger Zverev who is ranked inside the top three whilst the elder is outside the top 40. Alexander has more weapons than Mischa, and he also clearly enjoys playing in Washington having won the title last year. Expect him to keep his chances of another triumph in DC alive with a straight sets win.