Two years ago, Alexander Zverev won the biggest title of his career when he triumphed at the Nitto ATP Finals over Novak Djokovic. On Wednesday, Zverev took a positive step forward in his hope of replicating that success by defeating Diego Schwartzman, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, in Group 1970 Tokyo.
Just as he did in his event debut against Novak Djokovic, Schwartzman held an early break advantage only to see it quickly disappear. Zverev made 14 unforced errors in the first set but his willingness to go for more pace on his forehand and rush the net paid off in multiple situations, including in the closing game when he erased a pair of break points.
It took 16 minutes for the pair of competitors to complete the first two games of the second set. Zverev put up a tough hold after letting a 40-0 lead slip, before breaking for the second time when Schwartzman yanked an inside-in forehand wide. The world No. 7 was unable to stay in front however, as Schwartzman's level clearly rose in quality. He compiled 13 winners to 7 unforced errors, winning four of the final five games in forcing a third set.
Zverev regrouped by keeping his trips to the line drama free and in the fifth game, made his move against the Argentine's serve. He worked the court in his first break point of the set, ultimately coming forward to punch a backhand volley. The advantage would prove to be enough of a cushion this time around, as Zverev enjoyed a 16 for 19 success rate on serve in the decider. hitting four aces and zero double faults. The 23-year-old moved to 3-2 in the pair’s head-to-head series, having also defeated Schwartzman in October to claim the Cologne 2 crown.
Zverev will get another crack at five-time event winner Djokovic come Friday. The Serbian is due to meet Daniil Medvedev in Wednesday’s night match. Djokovic can qualify for the semifinals with a straight-sets victory, while the Russian can secure his place in the last four with any victory.