One of the early favourites takes on an unheralded opponent in the first round of the US Open as Alexander Zverev faces off against Darian King. Zverev is seeded fourth and is at a career high ranking of world number six. In contrast, King has never been inside the top 100 and will be competing in his first main draw match at a Grand Slam. The match looks one-sided on paper but some of the greatest upsets have been sprung under the lights in New York. Can King become another giant killer?
Zverev and King, who have inhabited different regions of the tennis world so far in their careers, are yet to meet. But where Zverev does have the overwhelming advantage is in experience, despite being five years King’s junior. King will be looking to win just his 25th match at tour level whilst Zverev has already picked up an impressive 108 wins, including 46 this year. He also two Masters 1000 titles in 2017, as well as wins in Montpellier, Bavaria and Washington. King, in contrast, is yet to win his first Challenger title. That gulf in experience reflects the similar 162 spot chasm that separates them in the rankings.
Path to the first round
Zverev, ranked number six in the world, was well within the cut for direct entrance to the main draw. As a result, this will be his first match at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. King, however, at 168th in the world, had to go through qualifying. He began against Daniel Nguyen, winning that match comfortably 6-1 6-2. This was followed by another straight sets win over Nicolas Jarry of Chile who, despite early promise, has never lived up to expectations. King won 7-6 6-3 to move to within one victory of the main draw. He picked that victory up against Lukas Lacko, despite dropping the first set to set up the meeting with Zverev.
How do they match up?
King has a relaxed, loose playing style, and is a fine volleyer. His backhand, which he hits with a lot of wrist, is an effective enough short when he is given time, but his forehand is the more solid, and technically sound shot. He does have a tendency on hard courts to rally well behind the baseline, which could prove costly against Zverev. The German is one of the biggest hitters on tour. He can drive the ball from both backhand and forehand with accuracy and pace. How King can stand up to that power will be crucial, but considering the Barbadian is more accustomed to the Futures and Challengers Tour, he may struggle.
Zverev may have lost early last week to Frances Tiafoe but there doesn’t seem to be much chance of it happening again. King has done brilliantly to get this far and should enjoy the chance to play a night match on Arthur Ashe. But he doesn’t have the game to hurt Zverev over the course of a best-of-five sets match. Zverev should come through this encounter comfortably.
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