Alexander Zverev defeated Dominic Thiem on Sunday to capture his third Masters 1000 Tournament of his career at the Madrid Masters 2018.
You can check our summary of the tournament so far and a preview of the final here. If you’re more interested in the Zverev-Shapovalov match you can also read our recap. Quick summary – Thiem stopped Nadal’s amazing run of 50 sets won in a row on clay and defeated him in the quarterfinals, while Zverev is riding an eight-match winning streak. Our pick for the final was that it’s gonna be close, but I gave a slight edge to Zverev, despite their head-to-head which was 4-1 for Thiem (3-0 on clay) prior to this fortnight.
Before we get to the match, may I just add that this was Zverev’s fourth Masters 1000 final (won in Rome and Montreal last year, runner-up in Miami this year) and the second one for Thiem (lost to Nadal here in 2017).
Another important note – Zverev faced just one break point on his route to the final (against Leonardo Mayer) and wasn’t broken. The last time someone won a Masters 1000 Tournament without getting his serve broken was Roger Federer in 2015 at the Western & Southern Open (achieved the same feat in 2012 at the very same tournament).
After a forehand return winner and two forehand unforced errors from the Austrian, Zverev got his first two break points in the opening game. Thiem double-faulted to give away the first break of the match. The strategy that allowed the Austrian to dominate their clay court encounters in 2016 was to play deep into the German’s forehand. However, the first few months of 2018 saw Zverev drastically improve that shot, to a point where it can’t really be considered a liability. Thiem tried to move away from the baseline but that style also seemed to suit the German, who was able to keep the ball in the rallies longer than his opponent. The Austrian was slowly getting into his groove but he couldn’t touch Zverev’s serve and lost the set 6-4.
Against Nadal Thiem tried returning close to the baseline and it worked. Against Anderson what worked for him was returning from far back. Against Zverev – he didn’t have a clue what to do.
Thiem needs to change his position on the return, it’s impossible to put any pressure on Zverev’s serve while being so far. Zverev very solid and takes this set 6-4. Not gonna lie : no ? for now…
— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) May 13, 2018
I part of Home ? Thiem game that he struggles with is return of serv, that game at 5-4 from 0-30 with A2Z serving for set 5 missed returns, needs a better block return on bachand and a smaller swing on fearhand return
— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) May 13, 2018
The history repeated itself and Zverev took the opening game breaking Thiem to 30 with a stunning forehand inside-in. The German held another two break points two games later but this time failed to capitalize.
Confidence level = this drop shot.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 13, 2018
Thiem regained his composure but getting the break back seemed like an almost impossible thing. Partly responsible for that was Zverev, who served excellently, but also the Austrian who couldn’t return to save his life.
Clean, impressive tennis.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 13, 2018
The German sailed through the set to serve out the match and clinch the title 6-4, 6-4. You all know hot it ended – with Thiem missing a service return.
So, at least until next Sunday, Zverev is currently holding three Masters 1000 trophies (Rome, Montreal and Madrid). When it comes to these tournaments, he’s definitely been one of the top players in the world. However, he’s still struggling to transpire that to Grand Slam stage, not reaching a single quarterfinal (one fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon last year). Roland Garros 2018 seems like the perfect time to do damage in a Grand Slam tournament but so it seemed last year (straight after capturing the title at the Italian Open Zverev bailed out in the first round to an always dangerous Fernando Verdasco).
For some reason, I think if one of this guys is going to take Roland Garros title away from Nadal, the one with higher chances of doing so is actually Thiem. Alexander Zverev seems to have a terrible matchup against the Spaniard – all five sets contested went to Nadal (6-1, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4). During his relatively short career, Zverev hasn’t played a single great match at the French Open – Thiem is a two-time semi-finalist (2016, 2017). What do you guys think about it? Who has a higher chance to defeat Rafael Nadal at the Philippe Chatrier court?