Big Serving Counterpunchers Battle In Turin Final
Zverev's different strategies, Medvedev's forehand, matchup caveats
Zverev d Medvedev: 6-4, 6-4
Zverev finally turns it around after losing the last 5 in a row to Medvedev.
Subtle changes over the last three matches
When they met in Paris a few weeks ago, on the slower court, Medvedev won by serenely looking after his own service games with booming serves, while also dominating the points that developed into baseline rallies (many of which happened on Zverev’s serve):
Then, in the group stages in Turin earlier this week, during a much tighter match which could have gone either way, Zverev looked like he was starting to figure some things out while also benefiting from faster conditions relative to Paris. Zverev kept up with Medvedev both on serve and from the baseline (despite losing narrowly):
Finally, today in the final in Turin, Zverev absolutely dominated the serve/return dynamic while also keeping pace in the longer rallies:
Medvedev didn’t have his best day on serve, Zverev had a near flawless day on his serve, and that made up most of the difference as the shorter point supremacy largely decided the winner. But when things did develop into baseline rallies, despite Medvedev narrowly winning more points over 5 shots, it was actually Zverev who won most of the important longer, rally points (more on that later).
Serve and Return
Medvedev’s serve placement today wasn’t at its lethal best, with regular deliveries into the Zverev forehand landing quite central in the service box:
The red (losing points) cluster of dots going fast into the Zverev forehand return didn’t do Medvedev many favours today, with Zverev returning particularly well off his forehand wing off those big, but quite central, Medvedev serves:
Conversely, Medvedev’s forehand return of serve, off Zverev’s very successful 1st serve today, wasn’t quite so dialled in:
Medvedev actually had so much trouble returning Zverev’s serve with his forehand, for most of set one and the beginning of set 2, that the Russian started to move early on a number of serves to give himself more time to hit that forehand. The problem for Medvedev was that this opened up space to the other side, which Zverev happily took advantage of:
// After Set 1, Medvedev had made just 30% of his forehand returns, Zverev 70%.
While the two players finished pretty even on the longer points over 5 shots, with Medvedev actually winning marginally more of them (25-23), Zverev won most of the important long rallies today. Zverev did so thanks to quite a clear change in strategy across his last three matches vs Medvedev.
This was a significant change in rally strategy from Zverev and it paid off for a number of reasons.
Zverev today was in far better forehand form than Medvedev and either successfully broke down the Medvedev forehand…
…or looked for, and succeeded with, the first attackable ball down the line:
Conversely when Medvedev tried to be the one to hit his forehand up the line instead, the Russian struggled today, even when faced with quite short attackable balls:
Zverev, on this fast court, was much more comfortable generating pace and being the first one to take the aggressive strike from his forehand wing than Medvedev. To be clear, Zverev had an above average day with his forehand and Medvedev a below average day, but I do think that faster courts can suit Zverev in this matchup as these conditions don’t allow Medvedev to defend and smother the deep court quite as ably, and they can aid Zverev’s greater natural offence from his groundstrokes relative to Medvedev, who occasionally struggles to generate his own pace (especially on that forehand):
Zverev’s better serving and more effective ground game also enabled the German to rush the net effectively today, usually coming in on the right ball with Medvedev way out of position. Zverev won 15/21 net points compared to Medvedev’s 4/7.
Has this matchup changed?
I think this match stands a decent chance at being over-analysed. Zverev played near flawless tennis, in every area, and Medvedev was not at his best in any department (and looked a little jaded). For now at least, on average across all the different hard court speeds on tour I’d still favour Medvedev more often than not in this matchup when both are in form (narrowly). But Zverev, by way of some superior serving (handily out ace-ing Medvedev and hitting a higher % of unreturned serves), a significant changeup when it comes to baseline rally strategy, and a very good day on his forehand, has certainly swung the matchup pendulum closer to his side than it was before.
Don’t be surprised if their next five matches are more competitive, or even swing towards Zverev, compared to their last five.
Today at least, Zverev was simply the better of the two big serving counterpunchers.
See you on Thursday.
Top: Julian Finney/Getty
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You said it all but I have a couple of thoughts going thru my mind at the moment. The confidence and maturing of Zverev’s game cannot be overlooked. Whatever else may be going on in his life, his on court attitude has improved match by match, tourney by tourney, almost before our very eyes.
Secondly, I thought Meddy was a bit fatigued. And I wondered at the efficiency of his game on this court speed when a bit tired. The lack of economy in his game was slightly exposed, ie lack of spin to give him a bit of room to manoeuvre, and lack of economy of technique. Everything is big.
Final thoughts. Zverev played extremely well as you said, and I am beginning to rate his FH more than Medvedev’s even when Medvedev is 💯. More weight, more depth, more spin and more economic in technique. He was always about the BH but the FH is a weapon now.
If he continues like this , and overcomes the 5 set hurdle, I can see him bag a slam in 2022.