The Pick: Daniil Medvedev v. Alexander Zverev, ATP Cup semifinals

The Pick: Daniil Medvedev v. Alexander Zverev, ATP Cup semifinals

In the midst of a 12-match win streak, Medvedev looks to defeat Zverev for the third time in three months.

Daniil Medvedev has quietly won 12 matches in a row dating back to his triumph at the Paris Masters and subsequent ATP Finals. Of his last 12 wins, eight have come against opponents ranked inside the Top 10, with his easiest opponents being Alex de Minaur in Paris and Kei Nishikori on Wednesday in Russia’s ATP Cup victory over Japan. On Friday, he will face off against Alexander Zverev for the third time in three months. 

After a sensational win over Denis Shapovalov, Zverev very nearly defeated Novak Djokovic late Thursday night, ultimately falling 7-6 (3), 2-6, 5-7. 

The discrepancy between Zverev’s first and second serves right now is appalling. So much so that the German resorted to hitting two first serves against Djokovic, with mixed results. The idea of a huge-serving player going for two first serves has been floating around for a while, but it appears Zverev is about to give us a meaningful data set to work with. 

Astonishingly, this was a second serve. 

Some were successful. While others, like this one down break point at 5-5 in the third set, were not. 

Of all Medvedev’s unique weapons, the range on his return might be his most devastating. He has yet to be aced at this year’s ATP Cup, and despite Zverev making an unfathomable 86 percent of first-serves in Paris, Medvedev lost just five games in the final two sets. 

It’s clear that Zverev relies heavily on free points from his first-serve. When denied that luxury, he is content to engage in semi-defensive rallies, and use his exceptional court coverage and automatic crosscourt backhand to wear down his opponents. 

Not only does Medvedev deny Zverev free points, but his backhand is arguably more dangerous. He is also far more comfortable pulling the trigger when given the right opportunity. 

If Andrey Rublev loses to Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening tie, things could get interesting. But if Rublev gifts Medvedev a 1-0 scoreboard advantage, one has to wonder how much effort Zverev will give with the Australian Open just two days away. Especially on these ultra-quick courts, it appears that Medvedev is well positioned to defeat his rival, and propel Team Russia into the ATP Cup finals. 

The Pick: Daniil Medvedev