Tiafoe Ends Zverev's Winning Streak
Fellow #NextGenATP Khachanov, Donaldson advance
American wild card Frances Tiafoe recorded the biggest win of his career - and only his second Top 50 victory - on Wednesday to stop in-form fellow #NextGenATP player Alexander Zverev at the Western & Southern Open.
The World No. 87 ended the 10-match winning streak of Zverev, currently at a career-high No. 7 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Cincinnati.
“These are wins that definitely can change your career the right way,” Tiafoe said. “This is a big relief for me. We grew up together playing junior Grand Slams, playing Under-12s, Under-14s. I have known him for forever. Seeing him rise like that, I was, like, 'Maybe I can do the same'. Then he beat me twice, and I was, like, 'All right, maybe I can't'. So me beating him today made me feel pretty good.”
Tiafoe improves to 1-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Zverev had previously won 28 of his past 29 best-of-three-set matches when winning the first set, but in clutch situations - Wednesday - it was 19-year-old Tiafoe who found a way to complete just his fifth tour-level victory of 2017.
Tiafoe played with power and invention to capitalise on Zverev’s fatigue and open up a 3-0 lead in the second set, before growing in confidence for a third-round clash against compatriot John Isner.
“Strategy was just keep him out there. He has to be tired. He's played a tough couple of weeks, tough matches. A lot of night matches, too. Quick turnaround to play the next day,” Tiafoe said.
“I was just, like, if I can keep the rallies long and just keep making balls, just run down a lot of balls and keep making him play an extra ball, even if I barely get it over the net, just keeping the balls in. And he was getting pretty frustrated. There were times where he acted like he wasn't going to be there and he would step up. It was a roller-coaster match. I was happy to get it over the line.”
Tiafoe is hoping to join Zverev as a qualifier at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held in Milan from 7-11 November, by moving up from his current position of No. 9 in the Emirates ATP Race To Milan for a spot at the eight-player 21-and-under event.
“I think it's big for all of us,” Tiafoe said of the inaugural tournament. “It's an honour to be in the Race. Hopefully I can make it.”
Zverev, a winner of five ATP World Tour titles this year, came into the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament on the back of two straight hard-court crowns at the Citi Open (d. Anderson) and last week’s Coupe Rogers (d. Federer). The 20-year-old German is now 47-14 on the season (21-7 on hard courts).
Khachanov reached the third round of an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament for the first time in beating lucky loser Thomas Fabbiano 6-2, 6-2 in 72 minutes. The Russian No. 1 now meets Japan's Yuichi Sugita, who defeated qualifier Joao Sousa 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-1.
Donaldson withstood 12 aces and the serve-volley game of Indian lucky loser Ramkumar Ramanathan 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in just under two hours for a meeting against Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, a 6-3, 6-3 victor over lucky loser Christian Harrison.