Brain Game: Zverev Starts Aggressive, Doesn't Look Back Against Federer
Alexander Zverev put the writing on the wall early. Then he blew the wall over.
Zverev powered to a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Roger Federer in the final of the Coupe Rogers in Montreal Sunday with a stunning display of power tennis that constantly had the Swiss star under immense baseline pressure.
Zverev hit through Federer on the quicker Canadian court, upping his power level right from the beginning of the match to force forehand and backhand errors and capture the all-important first break of serve. When Zverev broke for 3-1 in the opening set, it proved to be a pivotal moment that Federer never recovered from.
Zverev's forehand was the battering ram. He was averaging hitting his topspin, driving weapon at 119km/h (68mph) coming into the final, but he ramped it up an extra 12 per cent to 133km/h (83mph) through the first 23 points of the match. He came out guns blazing.
Federer was trailing 1-2, 15/30, on serve at the time, and got back to 30/30 with an ace down the middle in the Ad court. At 30/30, Zverev crushed two consecutive backhands to force a forehand error from Federer out wide, with the Swiss simply unable to match the power level of his younger opponent. Zverev averaged hitting his topspin backhand at 121 km/h (75mph) before the final, but was already at 124 km/h (77mph) before he cracked those two gems.
Federer missed his first serve at 30/40, and Zverev unloaded with a huge forehand in the middle of the rally before finally forcing a Federer backhand passing shot wide for the break. Zverev quickly held to 15, and his 4-1 lead proved ominous, and indeed, insurmountable.
Zverev's relentless forehand power continued through the first set, crushing six of his 10 winners from that wing. The match produced several one-sided stats, but none more than the average groundstroke speed in the opening set.
Set 1 - Average Groundstroke Speed
• Zverev 118km/h (73mph)
• Federer 100km/h (62mph)
Zverev averaged hitting his groundstrokes a significant 18 per cent harder than Federer, making the Swiss have to often half-volley, slice, and stretch out wide to stay in the point. Zverev's average groundstroke speed dropped a touch by the end of the match, but Federer was never able to up his power level to pressure the 20-year-old German.
Full Match - Average Groundstroke Speed
• Zverev 115km/h (72mph)
• Federer (100km/h (62mph)
All of that firepower helped Zverev finish with 20 total winners, including nine from the forehand side, and five from the backhand. As Zverev has made his impressive run to the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, his backhand has been the more reliable shot, while his big forehand has taken a little more time to consistently find the court. That box can well and truly be checked now.
The beginning of the point in the final was a fertile time for Zverev to ramp up the power with his serve and the ensuing Serve +1 bruising groundstrokes. Overall, almost three out of four points (74 per cent) in the final saw both player hit just two shots in the court, with only five rallies reaching double figures.
Length Of Rally
• 0-4 shots = 74% (83)
• 5-9 shots = 21% (24)
• 10+ shots = 5% (5)
Zverev's game style is built around crushing the ball first, and seeing where the dust settles later on. What's interesting is that while Zverev played most of the match on the front foot, both players ran almost exactly the same distance. Zverev ran 867 metres, while Federer ran just two more at 869 metres.
The small holes in Zverev's game are rapidly closing. He did miss several short, low, awkward balls when Federer pulled him forward in the court, and was sometimes too ambitious on defence playing down the line with offence.
Those outliers will soon be dismissed from his game, leaving opponents with a well groomed 6'6” power baseliner to wrestle with. The coming of Alexander Zverev is now in full force.