Alexander Zverev was feeling unwell and down a double break at 1-4 in the third set, but the German still managed to stage an incredible fightback to reach the final of the Western & Southern Open. He defeated Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 to extend his winning streak to 10 matches. The Tokyo Olympics gold medallist produced a rollercoaster performance, playing exceptional tennis in the first set, dropped his level significantly in the second before climbing a mountain in the final set to reach the title clash. In the end, Zverev produced three aces to take a 6-5 lead in the decider and then commanded the tie-break before sealing the victory in style.
“After the first break [to get to 2-4] I thought I had a chance and I felt he wasn’t serving bombs and that I was in the rallies,” Alexander Zverev said on court after the win. “It was a little bit of the mentality that I had against Novak at the Olympics.”
“It’s a great rivalry, there is a lot of fire and emotion there,” Zverev said later on Tennis Channel. “And before the US Open we didn’t want to give each other anything, which is what the match showed. It was a great battle and the last matches we have played have been like that.”
Little separated the players in early proceedings. It was a neck-to-neck battle until Alexander Zverev produced a spectacular down-the-line backhand pass as part of a four-point run against the Greek’s serve to bag the only break of the set. It was enough for the German to see out the set. Coming into Cincinnati, Tsitsipas in 2021 had won 96 per cent of games when serving at 40/15, according to Infosys ATP Stats.
However, Zverev’s dominant serve and heavy groundstrokes helped him dictate the play early, keeping the Greek pinned deep behind the baseline. It made life extremely difficult for the 23-year-old to play on his own terms. The second set started in a similar fashion. Zverev managed an opening-game break of serve to take further control of the match.
But soon the German’s first-serve percentage dropped to just above 50 percent for the set and Tsitsipas found a way back into the court. The Greek player claimed consecutive breaks to go ahead 5-2 before bagging the set to make it 1-1. Tsitsipas then dictated play and had Zverev on the run in the decider, claiming two breaks.
Zverev started his fightback, winning a gruelling rally with a stunning backhand winner to reclaim his first break for 2-4. He then disappeared up the tunnel with his towel. Later, Tsitsipas served for the match at 5-4 but couldn’t close out the match as Zverev showed great resilience despite battling what appeared to be a stomach upset.
“I didn’t feel well,” Zverev admitted. “In the middle of the second set I felt low energy and my stomach wasn’t great. I broke him at 4-2 in the third and went outside the court and did my thing. I started to feel better, the doctor came out and gave me a little medicine and my stomach started to calm down a little. The energy came back but I think that was also adrenaline.”