In a battle of the young guns, defending champion and top seed Alexander Zverev takes on Greece’s tenth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Zverev has played some of the best tennis of his career on the hard courts of North America and will be looking to build some good form ahead of a possible title challenge at the US Open. Tsitsipas, meanwhile, is looking to reach his second ATP 500 final (Barcelona) of what has been a breakout season. Who will come out on top?
This will be a first meeting between a pair who could well have one of the most important rivalries of the next decade. In terms of experience, it is Zverev, the elder man by two years, who has a marked advantage. The German has eight career titles to his name, Tsitsipas has none. If Zverev wins their semifinal he will contest his fourteenth Tour-level final. Tsitsipas’ run to the final in Barcelona (lost to Nadal) was his first and thus far only appearance in a Tour-level final.
Path to the semifinals
Zverev, as top seed, received a first round bye. That saw him begin his tournament with a dominant 6-2 6-1 win over Malek Jaziri, who had broken a three match losing streak in the first round but proved no match for Zverev. That set up a clash with his brother, Mischa, which was their first on Tour and which was won by the younger Zverev 6-3 7-5. Zverev then ousted Nishikori after recovering from a set down to win 3-6 6-1 6-4 in a rematch of last year’s semifinal.
Tsitsipas, who also received a first round bye, opened his Washington campaign against the American Jared Donaldson. It was a close match, and Tsitsipas came close to exiting, but rallied from a break down in the decider to win 3-6 6-3 7-5. He was more comfortable in dispatching James Duckworth of Australia, who was playing in DC on a protected ranking, 6-3 6-4. Tsitsipas then inflicted further misery on the struggling third seed David Goffin, beating him 6-3 6-4.
How do they match up?
Both Zverev and Tsitsipas are superbly naturally gifted tennis players equipped with powerful baseline games. Indeed, Zverev has established himself as amongst the biggest hitters in the game over the past two seasons, if not the biggest hitter. The centrepiece of his impressive arsenal is his two-handed backhand, which is his most reliable and versatile weapon. His forehand, though dangerous when he is hitting it well, can breakdown swiftly when he is not.
Tsitsipas, in contrast, favours his forehand. But he is an impressively clean ball striker off both wings and his one-handed backhand is sure to win him many fans over the coming years if he continues to rise through the ranks. It will, however, receive a stern examination from Zverev’s crosscourt backhand in this match. How Tsitsipas is able to defend against the power of Zverev will almost certainly be the decisive battle in this one.
Tsitsipas has put together another fine run this season in Washington and it seems increasingly likely that he will be making his way towards the very top of the game soon. But in Zverev, he faces someone who has already scaled those heights and, crucially, who is two years further along in his development. Zverev’s greater power and experience are largely the result of his greater age, and for now, will give him an insurmountable advantage. Zverev in straight sets.