Alexander Zverev: A Tough Fourth-Round Test to Come?

Alexander Zverev in action at the US Open

For the second year in a row, Alexander Zverev has reached the fourth round of the US Open. For a player whose record at the Majors is much maligned, he now has the chance to make a statement run, to add to his semifinal showing at the Australian Open earlier this year and the two quarterfinal appearances he has made at Roland Garros. But standing between the German and a place in the last eight is the dangerous Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Zverev’s US Open So Far

Not for the first time in his career, Zverev has been struggling behind his second serve. Last time out at the Cincinnati Masters, the German hit three double faults when serving for the match in a three-set defeat to Andy Murray and his issues with double faults have continued in New York. In the third round, up against Adrian Mannarino, Zverev double faulted 11 times, although he did manage to win an impressive 63% of the points behind his second serve.

That added to the 10 double faults he hit against Brandon Nakashima in the second round and the six he made against Kevin Anderson in his opener in New York. That rash of double faults has seen Zverev take pace off his first serve, robbing him of one of his biggest weapons. So far, however, the world #7 has been able to compensate with formidable power off the ground and some impressive speed around the court. That said, he has dropped a set in all three of his matches so far.

Davidovich Fokina on the charge

Davidovich Fokina arrived at the US Open having never been past the second round at a Major. But the young gun is a player with a bright future in the game and he looks to be fulfilling that potential. In the first round, he battled past the veteran Dennis Novak in five sets, before upsetting the 24th seed Hubert Hurkacz, 6-4 1-6 6-2 6-2. That set up a third-round battle with Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who had stunned ninth seed Diego Schwartzman in the third round.

Davidovich Fokina took a hard-fought first set in a tiebreak, despite Norrie having had the better of it. The Briton fought back to level the match in the second, but thereafter his challenge faded. Davidovich Fokina wrapped up a 7-6 4-6 6-2 6-1 victory, with Norrie wilting physically and complaining after the match of blurred vision. Crucial to Davidovich Fokina’s was his impressive second serve, with the Spaniard winning 76% of the points behind his second delivery.

Zverev the favourite?

That was surely a confidence-building win, but Davidovich Fokina will know he will need to play his very best tennis to overcome the big-hitting German, in what will be the pair’s first meeting. Both men look to play on the front foot, but it is Zverev who has the greater firepower. At 6’6”, when Zverev opens his shoulders and attacks the ball, he can do real damage, particularly off the backhand wing, with his two-hander amongst the best in the men’s game.

But Davidovich Fokina should not be underestimated. He has superb touch in around the net, as demonstrated by the superb volley he struck for a winner against Norrie. He also excels at taking the ball early, which will make him dangerous on a court playing as quickly as those at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and he has been serving well so far at the US Open. So whilst Zverev may be the favourite heading into the match, his opponent is certainly not to be underestimated.

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