Zverev has every incentive to keep his momentum from Shanghai going – the defending Nitto ATP Finals champion has not yet secured his place at the season-ending championships, although obviously reaching his first Masters 1000 Series final of the year brought him much closer to doing so. With six players qualified and only two spots remaining open, Zverev is in seventh place and has a 330-point lead on eighth-placed Matteo Berrettini, a 620-point lead on Fabio Fognini, who is the lowest player on the Race to London still technically in contention.
Zverev could secure qualification by winning the Swiss Indoors Basel this week but only if other results also go his way, which shows just how tight the battle is between himself, Berrettini, Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin and Fognini for the last remaining two spots.
A semifinalist in Basel last year, when he suffered a surprising loss to Marius Copil, Zverev has more reason even than the quest to qualify for the ATP Finals to keep his Shanghai momentum going. After all, he has finally got his season going in earnest (better late than never). Although he must have done reasonably well for the majority of 2019 to be in contention for London now, there’s no denying that it’s been a difficult year for Zverev: He won the Geneva 250, reached the French Open quarterfinals and the Acapulco final and the semifinals of Hamburg, but oftentimes each match looked like a struggle and the German himself like someone who had no real idea what to do on court and didn’t want to be out there.
Laver Cup – where Zverev and Fritz both played, but not against each other in singles – seems to have been a turning point, although how much that really had to do with the incessant pep talks from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and how much that’s just a tempting narrative remains doubtful. Zverev did play an absolutely crucial role in clinching victory for Team Europe and is 7-2 since, reaching the semifinals in Beijing before losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas and then moving on to Shanghai where he scored stellar wins over Andrey Rublev, Federer and Berrettini before falling short against the currently unstoppable Daniil Medvedev.
Has Zverev saved his season? Probably not unless he does successfully manage to qualify for the ATP Finals, which looked extremely doubtful at various points. But just seeing the world no. 6 back to playing with some confidence and conviction is an enjoyable development. Can he keep it going in Basel?
If recent form is any indication, first-round opponent Taylor Fritz won’t be the one to stop Zverev. The American has won only one of his last nine matches since making a trio of ATP 250 finals in Eastbourne (beating Sam Querrey to win his first title), Atlanta (finishing runner-up to Alex de Minaur) and Los Cabos (losing to Diego Schwartzman); he lost his opening matches at the Canada Masters, Cincinnati Masters, Winston-Salem Open, US Open, Chengdu Open, Japan Open and last week’s Stockholm Open, and although he beat Fernando Verdasco in a tight three-setter at the Shanghai Masters, he promptly lost in straight sets to Karen Khachanov.
Fritz hasn’t necessarily been losing to bad players but he did suffer defeats to four players outside the top 50: Feliciano Lopez, Alexander Bublik, Reilly Opelka and, last week in Stockholm, Yoshihito Nishioka. It’s an underwhelming run of results, just as the opposition he faced on his way to the Basel quarterfinals last October was underwhelming: World no. 87 Laslo Djere and world no. 175 Henri Laaksonen. Qualifier Copil stopped his run, as he did Zverev’s.
Fritz has done well in Challengers played on indoor hard courts in the past, and I can see him having a decent game for this surface – but Zverev’s is better. While Fritz is 0-2 against Zverev, he did push him to five sets at Wimbledon in 2018, but that was on grass and in a Grand Slam, two circumstances in which Zverev does not tend to show his best. With his Shanghai run to buoy his confidence, the incentive of wanting to make the ATP Finals and recent wins to draw on, Zverev should be able to book his place in the second round of the Swiss Indoors in fairly short order.
Zverev vs Fritz Swiss Indoors Basel tennis is live from Basel on Tuesday at 5pm local/4pm BST
Zverev vs Fritz tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Shanghai finalist Zverev bring the same form to Basel?
Alexander Zverev hopes to edge closer to London as the world no. 6 takes on Taylor Fritz, currently struggling for…
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