Tennis is a weird sport. It is, first and foremost, a game of matchups. But for many reasons, some obvious and some mysterious, certain players bring out the very best in others, while some bring out the worst. From first-rounds in Rome to to championships in Washington, D.C., Alexander Zverev has always had Kevin Anderson’s number. Zverev is a phenomenal player, and will likely be ranked No. 1 in the world during some point in his career, but his 5-0 head to head advantage over a player of Anderson’s caliber is puzzling.
The first, and most obvious reason, is that Zverev hasn’t faced Anderson since succumbing to some serious service woes. In 2019 Zverev had the second-most double faults per match on tour, and throughout the past 52 weeks he’s won just 43% of his second serve points, ranking him dead last by a wide margin. Zverev’s No. 7 ranking with such a glaring weakness tells you everything you need to know about the rest of his game.
Another possible reason for Zverev’s success likely stems from his range on the return. When healthy, Anderson almost always ranks in the top-5 in aces per match, as well as percentage of first serve points won, but Zverev, 6’6” with long arms and a quick first step, is one of the most difficult players to ace on tour.
Anderson’s second serve is also a force, but Zverev is unbothered by the high bounce, especially on his rock-solid backhand wing.
At 6’8", Anderson’s flat-wide serve from the ad court is one of the world’s best, but Zverev’s length and timing from his backhand wing immediately neutralize one of the South African’s biggest weapons.
Once a rare baseline rally begins, Zverev has the slight advantage. Both players prefer their backhand wing, but Zverev’s is just a bit better.
Sometimes Zverev struggles when he’s forced to create his own pace, especially from his forehand wing. Anderson’s aggressive game and raw power forces Zverev to react more, and think less. If Zverev’s serve holds up, and that’s a big if, he should find more success against Anderson, who has played just eight singles matches since the 2019 Wimbledon Championships.
The Pick: Alexander Zverev