ZVEREV OVERCOMES SCHWARTZMAN TO IMPROVE SEMI-FINAL CHANCES

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www.atptour.com|19-Nov-2020 15:24

Alexander Zverev claimed his first win in Group Tokyo 1970 on Wednesday, as he overcame Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to boost his chances of semi-final qualification at the Nitto ATP Finals.

The 2018 champion landed 10 aces and saved six of nine break points to improve to 8-6 at The O2 in London. Zverev, who lost in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev on Monday, improved to 1-1 in round-robin play. The German is attempting to qualify for the semi-finals for the third straight year.

“It was much better than on Monday,” said Zverev in an on-court interview. “Diego is a very difficult player. He deserves to be here… There are no easy matches, but I am happy to get the win. I am happy to give myself a chance to go to the semi-finals and I am excited for Friday.”

The 23-year-old started strong to earn a commanding 6-3, 3-1 lead, but Schwartzman continued to battle and forced a deciding set. The 6’6” right-hander regrouped in the decider and earned his third ATP Head2Head win in five matches against Schwartzman after two hours and 11 minutes. Zverev owns a 13-2 record on indoor hard courts this year, with his only losses coming against Medvedev.

One of the key features of Zverev’s win was his serve. The 13-time tour-level titlist, who will meet Novak Djokovic in his final round-robin match on Friday, landed 73 per cent of his first serves and he raised that figure to 89 per cent in the final set. Zverev also kept his double fault count to a minimum, with each of his three double faults coming in the first set. The last time Zverev lost to Schwartzman at the US Open, he struck 17 double faults.

“Friday is going to be the most difficult match you can have here against Novak,” said Zverev. “We played twice here already, so I am looking forward to it.”

After trading breaks early in the first set, Zverev proved the more consistent player from the baseline and struck forehand winners to establish a 5-2 lead. The German struggled with double faults in the opener, hitting three of them, but powerful first serves helped him escape danger and take the first set.

Zverev took the initiative at the start of the second set, as he used his forehand to dictate rallies and earn his third break of the match. But Schwartzman recovered well to force a deciding set. After holding an extended service game at 1-3, the Argentine was gifted a route back into the match as Zverev committed unforced errors. Schwartzman hit two forehand winners and capitalised on forehand errors from his opponent to level the match.

Zverev served with confidence in the final set and made the crucial breakthrough at 2-2. The fifth seed came out on top in multiple extended rallies and moved up the court to break serve with a low backhand volley. Zverev earned a fifth break to close the match as Schwartzman fired a forehand into the net. 

Schwartzman falls to 0-2 in Group Tokyo 1970. The Argentine, who is making his debut at the season finale, will meet Medvedev in his final round-robin match on Friday.

“I'm happy because I almost did a good comeback,” said Schwartzman. “The match was going all his way quickly in the first set and second set. Then I found a way to win the second set and fight [in] the third… I think he deserved to win because he played better than me in important moments, but the serve was the difference today in the third set, not in the first.”

In the evening session, Djokovic and Medvedev will both aim to become the second man to qualify for the semi-finals. Djokovic needs to beat Medvedev in two sets to qualify on Wednesday, while Medvedev will reach the last four with a win over the World No. 1. Dominic Thiem is already through to the last four as the winner of Group London 2020.