Alexander Zverev's breakout season continues in the semifinals of Washington. He takes on the unpredictable Gael Monfils at 7pm local time (12am BST.)
Since losing to Andy Murray in straight sets in the first round of the Australian Open, it has been all uphill for 19-year-old Alexander Zverev. From multiple ATP finals to many more semifinals, a match point over Rafael Nadal to a grass-court victory over Roger Federer, and five set epics against the best in the game, this is undoubtedly the must-watch star of the current Next Generation.
One real disappointment occurred for Germany's Zverev in the last few weeks. After his stunning Gerry Weber Open semifinal upset of Roger Federer just before Wimbledon, he was favourite to triumph in the final against Florian Mayer: A former world no. 18 ranked outside the top 200 at this point. Despite the senior German's rich history, the win in his favour left his young opponent in for a lot of stick – and probably some self-inflicted frustration.
Nevertheless, the 6'6” big server has put his head down and got on with things. The scheduling may have been adverse en route to his Wimbledon third round loss to Tomas Berdych (he had just completed a rain-delayed five set duel the prior day), but the teen has put it out of his mind and moved on to the next event with determination and concentration. This would be the Citi Open in Washington D.C, to which no. 7 seed Zverev accepted a wildcard. And he has now outdone his 2015 quarterfinal showing at the event, following a thumping defeat of the no. 4 seed. Benoit Paire is known for his sometimes wild inconsistency, but the 6-1 6-3 victory was all about Alexander Zverev. It saw the up-and-comer win a whopping 86 percent of first serve points, and save the only two break points he faced. He also made good of four of the seven opportunities he earned for himself.
The clash with Paire, in retrospect, will actually have been a great test as the German prepares for a clash with another highly hot-and-cold player: Gael Monfils. Superior in calibre to Paire, Monfils is seeded second in Washington this week – and had dropped zero sets to Zverev's one heading into the quarterfinals, with straight sets wins over Yen-Hsun Lu and the no. 7 seed's fellow rising star: No. 16 seed Borna Coric.
Nevertheless, the two are now even. Friday was something of a classic Monfils match, with the 29-year-old fading away during the second set of his clash with Sam Querrey, the home country's no. 6 seed. But the Frenchman rebounded for a 6-4 3-6 6-1 triumph, saving two of three break points to his opponent's two of five. Ten aces from his side of the net outdid one of the biggest servers in tennis, as Sam Querrey managed just six in comparison.
Gael Monfils and Alexander Zverev have faced off twice before, and the younger player has found the athletic Monfils simply too difficult on both occasions. In Marseille last season, the Frenchman was victorious 6-1 7-6(12), before virtually rotating the scoreline for a slightly closer 7-6(4) 6-3 result in the Rotterdam quarterfinals earlier this season. Both of these clashes came on indoor hard-courts. Can Alexander Zverev come out on top now the roof has been removed? If the youngster does not make his move soon, Monfils could easily get a stranglehold on their rivalry.
Gael Monfils versus Alexander Zverev is live from Saturday's Citi Open semifinals at 7pm local time (12am BST.)