In a clash between a coming star and a veteran, world number 8 Alexander Zverev takes on Kevin Anderson. Both players have big games and have been in good form all week. The quick hard courts of Washington are also well suited to their games so an excellent final should be in store on Stadium Court.
The pair have met twice so far in their careers, with Zverev claiming the victory on both occasions. The first came in 2015 in Washington. Zverev won that match in three sets, after dropping the first, in what was a considerable upset and for a many a sign of what Zverev could achieve in the game. With Anderson missing much of 2016 through injury they did not meet again until this year, in Rome. Their circumstances had changed somewhat then, with expectations of Zverev high, and Anderson working his way back from injury. Zverev was again victorious, winning another three set clash, and would go on to win the title in Rome, his first at Masters 1000 level.
Though Anderson is the elder of the two, the success that Zverev has experienced already in his career puts him ahead in terms of experience. He has won four titles at ATP Tour, level including the Masters title in Rome. Anderson, meanwhile, has managed three titles, although he has played in eleven finals already to Zverev’s seven. The South African has also reached the quarterfinals at a Major (2015 US Open), whilst Zverev has never been beyond the fourth round (2017 Wimbledon).
Path to the final
Zverev, the fifth seed, enjoyed a bye into the second round. He began against Australia’s Jordan Thompson, who surprisingly took the first set off Zverev. The German rebounded to take the second and take the match into a decider. The final set went to a tiebreak, and it could have gone either way until Thompson double faulted to hand Zverev a match point. Zverev made no mistake when given the opportunity and moved into the third rounds. There he faced Tennys Sandgren, who he dispatched in straight sets, although he was pushed.
Zverev appeared to be gaining confidence, however, as he brushed past fellow Next Gen contender Daniil Medvedev 6-2 6-4, despite many predicting it to be a tight match. In the semifinals, he faced Kei Nishikori, who seemed spent after a taxing win over Tommy Paul in the quarters and a 2 a.m. finish against Del Potro in the round of 16. Consequently, Zverev came through that match more easily than he otherwise might have done, winning 6-3 6-4 to reach the final.
Kevin Anderson also moved into the second round with a bye as the 15th seed. In his opening match, he crushed Malek Jaziri 6-4 6-1. His third round opponent, top seed Dominic Thiem, provided a far sterner challenge. Though Anderson dominated the early running, taking the first 6-3, and holding three break points at 5-5 all in the second, Thiem fought on. The Austrian managed to reach a tiebreak, and despite Anderson carving out a match point, it was Thiem that won it. The decider also went to a tiebreak, but this time it was Anderson who played big when it mattered. He won it 9-7 to set up a quarterfinal meeting with surprise package Yuki Bhambri.
Anderson came through what was a scrappy affair against the Indian in three sets. The South African struggled at times to contend with Bhambri’s ‘slow balling’ tactics but his power told in the end as he won 6-4 4-6 6-3. In the quarterfinals, he came up against home hope Jack Sock. Sock had been playing superbly all week, and upset third seed Milos Raonic in the quarters, but was strangely flat against Anderson. This allowed the 31-year-old to dominate, and he won through in straight sets, 6-3 6-4, to reach his first final since 2015.
How do they match up?
Both are big men and hit the ball accordingly. Anderson has the height advantage, coming in 6 feet 8 inches, and has the bigger serve. But Zverev, 6 feet 6 inches tall, is a superb mover for a man of his height. Both are also solid off both backhand and forehand. The key for the match for Zverev is to target Anderson’s backhand corner with his own forehand and backhand. The South African has a good backhand but doesn’t defend as well out of that corner as other more mobile players. It will also deny him the use of his forehand, which is a danger to anyone. If Zverev can hit to that area of the court regularly and with power, he will likely win.
Zverev should win this match. He’s the higher ranked player for a reason, and his form has improved as the week’s gone on. Anderson has done brilliantly to make the final, but it’s hard to see how he can defeat Zverev. He has enough offensive power to hurt the German but doesn’t defend well enough to withstand Zverev’s own attack. Expect a match with plenty of winners, but the big one will be Alexander Zverev.
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