Alexander Zverev Is Yet To Decode Deciding Set Tiebreakers

Tommy Paul French Open 2021
Spread the love

Alexander Zverev runs the risk of never realizing his true potential if he continues to lose in the first rounds of Masters events. That’s a bold statement considering he’s ranked #3 in the world, yet it feels like in his mind the German doesn’t believe he can compete week after week as a top-ranked player.

While the allegations of domestic abuse still very much present against Zverev, this article will solely focus on the German’s worrying trend in deciding set tiebreakers across the best-of-three format and Grand Slams. Standalone match tie breakers such as the ones played in Laver Cup and exhibition tournaments are not considered.

Alexander Zverev in Deciding-Set Tiebreaks

The Record

Currently, the German ‘s deciding set record stands at 4-7 since his first grand slam quarter-final at the French Open 2018. That record is not bad for most players out there but for a player of the calibre such as Zverev, it’s a statistic he won’t be proud of.

Lost to Nicolas Jarry – 6-3 5-7 6-7(5) – Barcelona 2019

Won against Nicolas Jarry – 6-3 3-6 7-6(8) – Geneva 2019

Lost to David Goffin – 6-3 1-6 6-7(3) – Halle 2019

Lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili 4-6 6-4 6-7(5) – Hamburg 2019

Won against Nikoloz Basilashvili – 7-5 5-7 7-6 5) – M0ntreal 2019

Lost to Dominic Thiem – 6-2 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-7(6) – US Open 2020

Won against Denis Shapovalov 6-7 6-3 7-6(4) – ATP Cup 2021

Won against Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 3-6 7-6(4) – Cincinnati 2021

Lost to Taylor Fritz 6-4 3-6 6-7(3) – Indian Wells 2021

Lost to Daniel Medvedev 3-6 7-6(3) 6-7(6) – ATP Finals 2021

Lost to Tommy Paul 2-6 6-4 6-7(2) – Indian Wells 2022

What is striking is the fact that he has now lost three on the trot deciding set tiebreakers, enough to put a seed of doubt every time he starts to play one. It’s well-known that the German struggles when the pressure is high. But if he is to reach the top spot and be a Grand Slam winner, goals set by the German himself, that needs to be rectified pretty soon.

The Cause

If I had to explain in one word what causes Zverev’s inability to wrestle control when the end is near, it would be confidence. The initial string of losses could be explained by the German’s extreme lack of belief in his serve at crucial points. While that part of his game seems to have been sorted out, it still isn’t worthy enough to be associated with a top three player.

Recently, what’s been surprising about the German is his willingness to hand back in a defensive position as soon as there is even the slightest of scoreboard pressure. It was pretty evident again in his loss to Tommy Paul as he chose to let the American dictate points while he was happy just defending.

With the game that the German possesses, there’s no reason for Zverev to take up a defensive position. If anything, he has it within himself to be aggressive off of both wings and his net play isn’t bad either.

The Road Ahead

When the German goes back and analyses the loss, I hope he throws away the defensive mindset and just go for it. Being ultra-aggressive in pressure situations sounds counterintuitive but it may well be worth exploring at this juncture. If Zverev loses while playing that way, at least he’ll know in his mind he went down swinging.

He is due to turn 25 soon and while that still provides a lot of time for Zverev to turn things around. For a young riser like the German, this is starting to hurt. Hopefully the resolution is near because it’s a shame seeing Alexander Zverev not contesting for the biggest trophies in the sport.

Main Photo from Getty.