World no. 3 Zverev is hoping to book his place in the quarterfinals of a tournament for the ninth time so far in 2019, a season which has so far seen him win just one 250-level title in Geneva and reach one additional final at the 500-level Abierto Mexicano Telcel, where he finished runner-up to Nick Kyrgios. Aside from Geneva and Acapulco, Zverev has gone beyond the quarterfinal stage only once: In Hamburg, where he narrowly lost to defending champion Nikoloz Basilashvili (also the defending champion in Beijing).
Zverev is playing the China Open for the fifth time and has every incentive to try to repeat (or surpass) his best result yet, a semifinal finish in 2017. Champion at last year’s Nitto ATP Finals in such memorable style, Zverev has not qualified for the season-ending championships so far, and will be take a huge blow in the rankings if he cannot. Four players have qualified and four spots remain open, and Zverev at the time of writing is only in 11th place after his relatively poor season – but it’s far from hopeless: The German is only 65 points behind the player currently occupying the last qualifying position, Matteo Berrettini, and only 20 points behind Gael Monfils in tenth place; while ninth-placed Kei Nishikori is skipping the Asian swing entirely due to injury.
Berrettini, Monfils and seventh-placed Roberto Bautista Agut have all lost already this week in Beijing, so Zverev has the opportunity to make up some ground if he can reach the quarterfinals or beyond at the China Open – and the German certainly looked in fine fettle as he opened his campaign against Frances Tiafoe. Buoyed perhaps by his recent Laver Cup outing, in which he sealed victory for Team Europe by defeating Milos Raonic in a close match (with what you might call vocal encouragement from Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer), Zverev romped past Tiafoe 6-3, 6-2 in just 71 minutes on Monday, striking ten aces (and ‘only’ three double faults) and saving the only break point he faced, as well as dropping only six points of 16 played behind his second serve.
Given that Tiafoe pushed Zverev to five sets at the US Open, it was a good win for Zverev (although Tiafoe had not played since then) and the German will hope to build on that as he takes on Felix Auger-Aliassime on Thursday.
Auger-Aliassime is making his debut at the China Open this year, and is looking to make the quarterfinals or better of a 500-level event for the third time in 2019 after having finished runner-up to Laslo Djere at the Rio Open as a wildcard, and putting together an impressive run at Queen’s Club, beating Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas before losing to eventual champion Feliciano Lopez.
The 19-year-old Canadian also made the semifinals of the Miami Masters in March as a qualifier and reached finals in Lyon and Stuttgart, finishing runner-up to Benoit Paire and Berrettini respectively, so it’s been a great season for Auger-Aliassime – but It’s also rather run out of steam recently. In fact, Auger-Aliassime came into Beijing on a four-match losing streak, having been defeated in his opening matches at the Cincinnati Masters, US Open and last week’s Chengdu Open. Admittedly, Auger-Aliassime has been up against some very good players in those matches – Miomir Kecmanovic, compatriot Denis Shapovalov and Portugal’s Joao Sousa respectively – but the world no. 20, who won the Tashkent Challenger around this time last year, will be keen to shake off a poor stretch in Beijing.
Auger-Aliassime has already snapped his losing streak with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who made the semifinals in Zhuhai last week.
This will be the second meeting between Zverev and Auger-Aliassime after they played at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters earlier this year, Zverev winning 6-1, 6-4. The change of surface is perhaps in the Canadian’s favour, and perhaps Tiafoe’s lack of recent matches flattered Zverev a little in that match, but nevertheless the German has played very good tennis in Beijing before and should be able to make it back to the quarterfinals of the China Open on Thursday.
Zverev vs Auger-Aliassime China Open tennis is live from Beijing at 9pm local/1pm BST
Zverev vs Auger-Aliassime tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Zverev tries to build on recent wins in Beijing
Hoping to boost his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals, Alexander Zverev takes on Felix Auger-Aliassime for a…
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