How Sascha Triumphed In Madrid
Zverev earns second tour-level title of the year, wins ninth consecutive match
The 21-year-old star showed why he was able to break out on the ATP World Tour last season and claim five trophies, dominating his service games to deny Thiem his maiden victory at the elite level. Zverev is now one of five active players to capture three or more titles on the prestigious stage, joining Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. The German earned his ninth consecutive match win, and he has prevailed in his past 18 sets since losing the opening set against compatriot Yannick Hanfmann in the first round of the BMW Open by FWU last week.
Zverev closed the deficit to 2-4 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry against Thiem.
This is how the final unfolded...
There was little rhythm in the early going, with the Austrian failing to find his range in his opening service game, double-faulting to give up an immediate break. And that was all Zverev, who faced just one break point in the entire tournament, needed to grab the opening set.
Zverev used Thiem’s deep return position to his advantage, controlling points from the first ball and venturing to the net frequently. The German threatened for a double-break lead as Thiem served at 1-3, but the Austrian hit two precise first serves from deuce to maintain contact in the opener.
But Thiem struggled to find a way to impact Zverev with his heavy groundstrokes — especially off the forehand side — like he did against Nadal Friday. Whenever Thiem was been able to take a full swing on that wing, Zverev responded with a missile-like two-handed backhand to put the Austrian on the back foot. The eight-time ATP World Tour champion rarely allowed Thiem to take those big swings and unleash his heavy strokes, though, stauing on top of the baseline and taking the Buenos Aires champion's time away by approaching the net to avoid long, grueling rallies.
The World No. 7 won just three points in his first four return games, but managed to force the German into longer, grinding rallies as the second seed served for the set. But Zverev served his way out of trouble, escaping the deuce game to move within a set of his third Masters 1000 title. In the final game of the set, Thiem failed to put five returns into play.
SECOND SET - Zverev 6-4
With the way Zverev served throughout the tournament, Thiem needed an easy early hold to dig into the match. But that is not what he got. Zverev danced around a backhand and pummeled an inside-in forehand winner to break immediately, and he never looked back from there.
The German consolidated that break, continuing to take advantage of Thiem’s deep return position by throwing in serve and volleys every so often, even on his second serve. Thiem shanked a backhand well long and wide in the next game to fall behind 0/30, but battled to hold and maintain his hopes of a maiden Masters 1000 title.
Perhaps the only slip of the match for Zverev came in his third service game of the second set, when he saw a 40/0 lead evaporate. When Zverev could not whip a low running forehand over the net, Thiem suddenly had a major opportunity at deuce. But a big first serve and forehand approach straight down the middle of the court gave the second seed the advantage. He then escaped the game with an overhead right on the line. Again — the crucial points were controlled by Zverev.
That proved to be Thiem's greatest opportunity of the match, as the Austrian faced a puzzle that he could not find the pieces to solve — dealing with Zverev's serve. The German won 16 of 17 first-service points in the second set, and finished the tournament without losing serve and facing just a single break point.
Fittingly, the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier finished the match the way he played throughout. At 30/15, he ventured to net and showed deft touch with a forehand half-volley for a winner. And on his first match point, he delivered a booming serve to the Austrian's backhand, eliciting a chipped-return long to seal his second title in as many weeks.
What You Need To Know:
- Zverev entered the match leading the tournament in second-serve points won, triumphing on 79 per cent (48 of 61) of those points. He performed well in that department again, winning 68 per cent (13/19) of points on his second delivery, while Thiem won just 72 per cent (26/36) of his first-serve points.
- Thiem saved 13 of 20 (65%) break points he faced before the final, but Zverev converted on half (2/4) of his opportunities in the championship match, without facing a break point himself.
- Zverev now leads the ATP World Tour with 26 match wins in 2018, leading Thiem (25) by one.