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Zverev vs Isner Nitto ATP Finals Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Zverev and Isner meet in Group Guga Kuerten with semi-final spot still up for grabs

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 15 Nov 2018
  • Alexander Zverev vs John Isner is live from London on Friday, 16 November from 3:00pm local time/ 2:00pm GMT
  • Zverev has won four of their five previous meetings
  • Both players are still in the hunt for a semi-final spot in London
Alexander Zverev. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Alexander Zverev and John Isner both nurse semifinal hopes as they go head-to-head in their final round robin match in Group Guga Kuerten on Friday.

Zverev goes into the match with a 1-1 record, having opened his tournament with victory over Marin Cilic before losing to world number one, Novak Djokovic, while debutant, Isner is yet to win a match, falling to both Djokovic and Isner in his first two matches.

Djokovic is already through to the semi-finals, but any one of Zverev, Isner or Cilic can still join him in the last four. Amongst a series of typically complex permutations, Zverev will definitely qualify if he defeats Isner on Friday, and will be eliminated should he lose in straight sets. A three-set defeat would still be good enough, provided Djokovic beats Cilic in the day's other match.

The only way Isner qualifies for the semi-finals is if he beats Zverev in straight sets, and Djokovic takes down Cilic later in the day. Simple enough, eh?

Still only 21, Zverev is firmly entrenched in the top echelon of the men’s game, following another solid season during which he’s won titles in Madrid, Munich and Washington, and reached finals in Miami and Rome.

After exiting the year-end finals at the round robin phase in his debut appearance in 2017, winning just one of his three group matches, Zverev is looking to make the semis for the first time this year, and he got off on the right note, edging out Cilic 7-6 7-6 in his opening match, despite trailing by a break in both sets.

He competed well against in the first half of his second match against Djokovic, matching the Serbian stride for stride through the opening nine games. Zverev carved out the first break points of the match at 4-4, but he failed to convert on any of two opportunities, and he was punished in the next game, as Djokovic broke, via a Zverev double fault, to steal a very tight opening set.

"Obviously I had chances in the first set. If I break him at 4-4, we'll see where the match goes. I think the match was much closer than the score says. For sure I feel that way," said Zverev.

Very true that. Unfortunately for Zverev, he didn't break, and he would win only one more game in the remainder of the match. The German came through a shaky service game to hold for 1-1, but that was as good as it got for him, as Djokovic reeled off five games in a row to close out the 6-4 6-1 victory. The loss of that first set seemed to knock the belief out of Zverev, and as Djokovic grew in confidence, the German slipped away very quickly in the second set. His first serve percentage dropped sharply from 71% in the opening set to 42% in the second, while he managed just five winners in Set 2, as against 15 in the first set, as Djokovic tightened the screws.

Zverev will not have to deal with such suffocative returning and ground-stroking in his next match, but he faces a different type of challenge on Friday, as he takes on the big-serving John Isner. 

That serve hasn't quite been good enough to get Isner a win so far in London, as his big weapon was expertly diffused by the great returner, Djokovic in his opening match, no real surprises there, while Marin Cilic produced some terrific returning during an inspired passage of play to pull off a brilliant win over the American in his second group match.

John Isner. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP/Getty Images)
Things were looking very rosy for Isner when he took the first set tie break against- he faced, and saved just the one break point in the opening set- but Cilic suddenly caught fire on the return of serve midway through the second set. Isner did well to fight off a 15-40 deficit at 2-3, but the pressure told in his next service game, as he double faulted on a third break point of the game to present Cilic with the chance to close out the set, which he did with aplomb.

Cilic's purple patch on return of serve continued into the third set, as he broke in the opening game. The Croatian then played an atrocious game, featuring two double faults, to gift the break back, but he engineered yet another superb return game to claim a third consecutive break against the Isner serve, after another double fault on break point from his American opponent. There were no further break points in the match, with Isner going on to lose 6-7 6-3 6-4 after two hours and 14 minutes.

Isner is looking for the big finish to a fine season, which has already yielded a first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, and a maiden Masters 1000 crown in Miami, where he defeated Zverev in the final. That Miami win remains the only success he has had against Zverev in their career meetings, with the German winning their four other matches, including the most recent encounter in Madrid in May.

“Everyone knows how good he is. We've played quite a few times, as well. It will be a very tough match”, Isner said about Zverev. “He does so much well. He serves very well, his groundstrokes are incredible. He's a very tough out... This isn't your everyday tournament. It will be very tough. But I'm going to come out fired up.”

While Djokovic was typically solid on return against Isner, and Cilic returned magnificently in that period between the end of the second set and the start of the third set in his three-set win against the American, I think Isner could have done with a higher first serve percentage, which was below 70% in both of those matches. He needs to be pushing closer to 80% in my opinion to compensate for his obvious shortcomings against guys of this quality. 

Isner certainly will not match Zverev off the ground, hence that serve needs to go really big if he is to repeat his Miami heroics in London on Friday. Remember, he needs to win in straight sets to give himself a chance of making the semi-finals.

Zverev though, is no slouch in the serving department, and his better all-round game just about gives him the edge in this one.

Alexander Zverev vs John Isner is live from London on Friday, 16 November from 3:00pm local time/ 2:00pm GMT

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify.

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Zverev vs Isner Nitto ATP Finals Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Zverev and Isner meet in Group Guga Kuerten with semi-final spot still up for grabs

Alexander Zverev and John Isner meet on Friday, with both still hopeful of getting into the semis of the Nitto ATP Finals. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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