In the second of the Miami Open semifinals, world #5 Alexander Zverev takes on Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. Zverev has had a fairly disappointing season so far and is yet to make a final. But if he can reach the title match of a Masters 1000, particularly after winning his previous two, that would mark a dramatic improvement in his fortunes. Carreno Busta has endured struggles of his own this year, but has found some form of late. Who will come out on top?
Zverev and Carreno Busta are yet to meet on Tour in their careers. It is Zverev, despite his being the younger of the two, that has the better career record. The German has won six career titles to Carreno Busta’s three. That includes two Masters 1000 crowns won in Rome and Montreal. Carreno Busta has made one previous Masters 1000 semifinal, reaching the last four in Indian Wells last season, but has never contested a final at this level.
Path to the semifinals
Zverev began his Miami Open campaign in the second round after a first round bye. There he faced Daniil Medvedev in a hard fought three set battle that Zverev won in the deciding set tiebreak. He then recovered from dropping the opening set against former world #3 and French Open finalist David Ferrer to win 2-6 6-2 6-4. He then impressed in defeating Nick Kyrgios 6-4 6-4 before accounting for Borna Coric, who last week made the last four in Indian Wells, by the same score in the quarterfinals.
Carreno Busta, seeded 16th, also received a first round bye. He opened in Miami against Denis Istomin and crushed the Uzbek 6-1 6-0. That set up a third round clash with Steve Johnson of the United States who he defeated in straight sets 6-4 6-4. Carreno Busta then defeated Fernando Verdasco heavily, taking advantage of his opponent’s understandable weariness after Verdasco had endured a marathon match in the previous round against Thanasi Kokkinakis.
That set up a quarterfinal, and the opportunity for revenge, against Kevin Anderson who had last week defeated him in Indian Wells in the fourth round. Anderson, the sixth seed, brought a record of 0-9 in Masters 1000 quarterfinals and was no doubt desperate to improve that. But after Anderson dropped the first set, a late Carreno Busta break left the Spaniard serving for it. Anderson responded by winning three games on the bounce to set up a decider. It was tight, with both men holding match points in a final set tiebreak, but it was Carreno Busta who triumphed.
How do they match up?
The match up is not entirely dissimilar to their last opponent for both men. For Zverev breaking down the defence of Carreno Busta will represent a similar challenge as getting past the defence of Coric. Meanwhile, the 6’6 Zverev may stand two inches shorter than Anderson, but he carries a similarly formidable threat. He is not as effective a server as the South African, but his groundstrokes are more potent and he is a better mover.
Likely the crucial battle in this match will be between the two men’s backhands. For both men it is their best shot, although they use it rather differently. Zverev dominates with his backhand, using the power of the shot to extend his opponents and regularly striking it for clean winners. Carreno Busta is less aggressive with his backhand, but is a very adept defender from that side. He is also typically able to maintain excellent depth with his backhand, keeping opponents on the defensive.
Zverev looks to be back in the winning groove, and that is bad news indeed for his opponents. When the German is at his best his combination of power and accuracy make him almost impossible to defend against, as Borna Coric discovered to his cost in the quarterfinals. If Zverev is able to find another performance of that level then it is hard to imagine Carreno Busta surviving the onslaught. Zverev in straight sets.
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