Kyrgios vs Zverev has the potential to be one of tennis’ next great rivalries and the first iteration of this matchup certainly lived up to its billing. Although Kyrgios fended off the challenge of the 19 year-old German in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, this match was played at an electrifying intensity, rife with outstanding shotmaking and animated dialogue from Kyrgios’ side of the net.
Both Kyrgios and Zverev took out seasoned Argentinian clay court specialists to arrive at the 3rd round, defeating Horacio Zeballos and Facundo Bagnis respectively. Kyrgios picked up right where he left off in his previous match, racing through the opening games with lights-out serving. He broke his opponent in the third game of the encounter, helped along by Zverev donating loose backhand errors and plenty of looks at his second serve. The 21 year-old continued to coast on serve while Zverev started to find his range. Zverev was then upended on serve again at 5-3. That game featured an interesting net exchange in which Zverev prevailed, but ultimately he was undone by two miscued volleys and some uncharacteristically erratic hitting off his backhand wing. With Zverev’s first serve percentage down at 53%, and the percentage of points won on his first delivery only marginally higher, it is no surprise he was outclassed in the first stanza by Kyrgios, whose numbers on serve were outrageously good and error count far more respectable.
The second set began with comfortable service holds for both players. The second game was briefly interrupted by Kyrgios’ histrionics in response to some head-scratching umpiring from Cedric Mourier. Following that episode, the Australian settled down and dug himself out of the only 15-30 situation he faced all afternoon; serving at 1-2 down he produced clutch second serves with astonishing ease and frustrated Zverev with crisp hitting from the back of the court. The points worthy of the highlight reel were saved for the eight game of the set and to a lesser extent, the ninth. Kyrgios displayed some of the most inventive point construction you’re likely to see all year, pulling Zverev around the court with delicate drop shots and deft tweeners, volleys and lobs. His ability to utilize the dimensions of the court so effectively is exactly what sets him apart as the most exciting player in his age group and the fact that his serve is as good as it is means that he can experiment with a wide array of tactics under less pressure than most of his rivals on tour. At 5-4, Zverev wilted on serve under the barrage of Kyrgios’ heavy groundstrokes. Kyrgios converted his second match point when an off-balance Zverev pushed a forehand into the net. It was a sobering loss for Zverev, but at least he was vanquished in a palpably less excruciating fashion than he was by Rafael Nadal the last time he played in the Californian desert. For a resurgent Kyrgios, either Juan Martin Del Potro or world number 2 Novak Djokovic awaits him in the next round.
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