Under the collective gaze of a packed Louis Armstrong Stadium,Botic Van De Zandschulp blasted a heavy forehand deep into the court that Diego Schwartzman couldn’t handle, netting the subsequent forehand. It was a momentous occasion for the Dutchman, who pumped his fist and screamed with pure ecstasy.
Van De Zandschulp might not have been on many casual tennis fans’ radars coming into the US Open. Ranked at World No. 117 coming into the event, and scraping through three consecutive three-set encounters during his qualifying campaign, Van De Zandschulp was not supposed to make so much noise at the event.
Of course, tennis betting tips might have told you about Van De Zandschulp’s huge serve, his heavy groundstrokes, and his ability to take hold and control the baseline. And Van De Zandschulp did make a Challenger final a couple months before the event on the clay of Amersfoort and had two-straigh Challenger semifinal appearances coming into US Open qualifying.
Yet, no one could have expected this.
After tough qualifying victories over Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera, Ben Shelton, and Enzo Couacaud where he had to come back from a set down in all three matches, Van De Zandschulp then came back from two sets down in his first round matchup against Carlos Taberner.
Continuing the theme of comebacks, Van De Zandschulp then beat Casper Ruud and Facundo Bagnis from a set down, as well.
In the Round of 16 against then-World No. 14 Diego Schwartzman, Van De Zandschulp showed significant mental fortitude in not being fazed by Schwartzman coming back from two sets down to tie the match at two sets each, with the Dutchman easily winning the fifth set 6-1.
In that match, Van De Zandschulp served 66% of his first serves in, winning 77% of those points, and only getting broken four times over the five sets (9/13 break points saved). His aggressive style of play meant that he was able to finish many points off at the net, winning 79% of his net points. Given that Schwartzman has the second-best first serve returns won, percent of return games won, and percent of break points converted, only behind Rafael Nadal in those statistics, it goes to show how well Van De Zandschulp had to play to make it past Schwartzman.
And, while Van De Zandschulp did end up losing to Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals, he did take a set from the future US Open champion and showcased why he made it as far in the draw as he did.
Van De Zandschulp exclaimed to the media regarding his performance in New York, “I think it’s a good sign I can beat guys who are higher-ranked than me…I think I did pretty good against Medvedev as well. It gives you a little bit of confirmation that you are doing the right things.”
Now, a lot of times when players make big breakthroughs at Majors, they find it hard to backup that good form. That has not been a problem for Van De Zandschulp.
Following the US Open, the Dutchman has won a Davis Cup match and has now qualified for Indian Wells. In Indian Wells qualifying, Van De Zandschulp beat Peter Polansky in two sets and then won a deciding set against Thai Son Kwiatkowski to qualify.
Van De Zandschulp won at least 70% of his first serves in both matches, which is solid on the slow courts in the Californian desert, and really did a great job pressuring his opponents in qualifying on their second serves. Both Polansky and Kwiatkowski only won 42% of their second-serve points and were broken a combined ten times.
Seeing Van De Zandschulp continue to excel is a sign that what happened at the US Open was not a fluke and that he has the rally tolerance and controlled aggression to play his style against even the best opposition.
Indian Wells is a court that suits Van De Zandschulp. It’s a bit slower which gives him more time to set up for forehand motion and the higher bounce helps with he topspin he puts on his shots.
And while Van De Zandschulp lost his first-round match in the main draw against the much-improved Marcos Giron 7-6(7) 2-6 4-6, it was yet another impressive performance for the Dutchman. Van De Zandschulp was still able to play attacking tennis against one of the better counterpunchers on the ATP Tour.
The future is looking bright for Botic Van De Zandschulp.
That US Open quarterfinal? It was no fluke.
Main Photo from Getty.