Alexander Zverev advanced to the 2018 Italian Open semifinals, defeating David Goffin. The German will now face Marin Cilic.
When Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer builds an improbable streak of victories or sets won it makes headlines all over the world. However, Zverev’s amazing run has gone a little under the radar. The German has been in spectacular form since March (Miami final, Monte Carlo semi-finals) but went totally crazy after that. Prior to this fortnight, Zverev’s won eleven matches in a row. Even more surprisingly, the last set he lost was in the first one of these 11 matches (to Yannick Hanfmann), meaning he won the last 22 sets played. Before getting broken by Kyle Edmund during their third-round encounter, he was also riding an even more unbelievable streak of 65 service games won (won Madrid without losing serve). Incredibly, he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down at the Italian Open, pulling through high-quality encounters against Matteo Berrettini and the aforementioned Brit, Kyle Edmund.
Meanwhile, Goffin overcame an eye injury he got during his Rotterdam semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov. The ailment forced him to retire from the match and then skip Marseille and Indian Wells. After a failed comeback attempt at Miami (lost 0-6, 1-6 to Joao Sousa), the Belgian became one of the strongest forces on tour during the clay court season, highlighted by an appearance in the quarterfinals at Monte Carlo and Barcelona Open semifinals. He booked a meeting with Zverev by defeating Leonardo Mayer, Marco Cecchinato and Juan Martin Del Potro (Del Potro retired down 2-6, 5-4).
Goffin’s timing was really off in the early stages of the match, leading to him getting broken in the third game of the match. On the other hand, Zverev played just as great as in the last three weeks, not allowing Goffin any openings. Holding onto his serve is something that the German has been doing extremely good lately, and the first set of this encounter was not an exception as Zverev sailed to close out the set six games to four.
The Belgian kept things much closer in the second, finally tuning in on his groundstrokes. He also got his first break point chances, up 4-3, after lobbing Zverev with a perfect forehand shot. The German saved the first one with a great serve but double-faulted on the second one to give Goffin an opportunity to serve for the set. The Belgian held to 15 and the match went to a decider.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 18, 2018
While Goffin improved his play a lot in the second, the German actually got a lot worse, hitting just two winners in nine games. Even if tiredness was finally getting to him, he showed that the second set didn’t break him down and opened the decider with a quick hold. Each minute the match went on it was harder for Zverev to stay with the Belgian and in the fifth game Goffin played an almost perfect game and broke. Somehow, the German heroically broke back after a game of wonderful baseline exchanges.
Out of the blue, Zverev started producing stunning shots after stunning shots. After getting broken at 2-2 he suddenly found his best tennis back. Goffin fell down 0-40 in the eighth game of the set and blinked on the second break point, missing an easy backhand. A hold to 15 later it was game, set and match Alexander Zverev 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
A break down at 2-3* in the third, Sascha Zverev breaks his racket, slowly replaces it without a warning, then wins 14 of 16 points to beat Goffin 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Such a clear, dumb turning point. #ibi18
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 18, 2018
Zverev marches on but it was his toughest victory since Monte Carlo. He ought to be exhausted right now, having played so much tennis during the last month. Provided that the German won’t feel too tired tomorrow in the semifinals against Cilic, who finished his match around nine hours earlier than Zverev, we should see a final between the two most outstanding players of the 2018 clay-court season (just to be clear, I mean Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal). The German has a 4-1 advantage in the head-to-head against Marin Cilic (lost their first meeting, back in 2015). Clay is also the Croat’s worst surface.