In a battle of the young guns, world #3 Alexander Zverev takes on Taylor Fritz of the USA for a place in the third round at Wimbledon. Zverev recently reached his first Major quarterfinal at Roland Garros, which surely did much to answer the growing questions about his capabilities at Slam level, but a good run at Wimbledon would do more yet. Fritz, however, will have ambitions of his own and has shown he can mix it with the game’s bright young stars in the past. Who will come out on top?
Zverev and Fritz have met on Tour just once so far in their careers with Zverev defeating the American in the Washington second round in 2016 in straight sets 6-4 6-2. Zverev also has a significant advantage in experience, despite being just six months older than Fritz. He has 152 career victories to Fritz’s 40, and has competed in 12 Grand Slam main draws to Fritz’s seven. And whilst Zverev has 19 victories at Slam-level, Fritz has just two.
Path to the second round
Zverev arrived in SW19 with some concerns over his fitness after a gruelling French Open that featured three consecutive five setters before a heavy defeat at the hands of Dominic Thiem in the last eight. His only grass court match in singles had been a similarly one-sided loss to Coric in the first round in Halle. But Zverev did reach the final in the doubles in Germany and looked sharp in his opening Wimbledon match, dismissing Australia’s James Duckworth 7-5 6-2 6-0.
Fritz began his third consecutive Wimbledon campaign against Lorenzo Sonego, an Italian lucky loser. Sonego, who made his Grand Slam debut earlier this year at Melbourne Park, was playing his first Wimbledon main draw and got off to a fine start, taking the first set 6-3. But Fritz, the more experienced of the two despite being three year’s Sonego’s junior was able to right the ship. He levelled the match in the second set and then pulled away to win 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2.
How do they match up?
Both Fritz and Zverev will look to play the majority of their tennis in this match from the baseline. Of the two, it is the German that is the more naturally aggressive, particularly off his backhand wing with Zverev possessing one of the most powerful two-handers on Tour. His first serve is also powerful with Zverev hammering nine aces against Duckworth. He does, however, occasionally lose his rhythm with it, which can cost him.
Fritz is in many ways the antithesis of the typical American player, characterised as they are by a big serve and a big forehand. Fritz lacks the outright power of many of his countrymen, but is far more solid on both wings from the back of the court. His backhand particularly is a real strength which is rare amongst American men. However, he will need to improve his serving after making just 56% of his first serves against Sonego, a figure which will not pass muster against Zverev.
On grass courts which so favour first strike tennis usually the bigger hitter has the advantage, and that is very much the case in this matchup. Zverev’s quality when stepping to the line and off the ground enable him to hit through almost anyone and Fritz is not good enough defensively to blunt those attacks. He has enough in his game to make Zverev work for the victory, but expect the German to advance to the third round a winner in four sets.