Alexander Zverev opens his China Open campaign on Monday, as he takes on American wildcard, Frances Tiafoe in the first round of the ATP 500 event.
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Zverev is playing his first match since the Laver Cup, where he scored the decisive victory as Europe won the title for the third straight year. Can that success inspire a return to form for the German as he targets a strong finish to the year?
A difficult season has yielded just the one title- at the ATP 250 meet in Geneva- and left the 22-year-old in danger of not qualifying for the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals.
The world No. 6, who is currently 11th on the Race to London, won the ATP Finals in such fine style last season, beating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to claim his biggest career title, but he has been unable to kick on from there in 2019, putting together a 31-18 record for the season. Apart from that title in Geneva, he also made the final in Acapulco (lost to Nick Kyrgios), but his only other semi-final was at his home event in Hamburg. He was again below par at the majors, managing just the one quarter final at Roland Garros.
Zverev’s best showing in Beijing was in 2017 when he made the semi-finals, but he faces a tricky route in his quest to emulate and better that run in 2019, with Felix Auger-Aliassime, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roberto Bautista-Agut, Gael Monfils and John Isner all stacked in his half of the draw.
First up for the German is a meeting with Frances Tiafoe on Monday.
Tiafoe and Zverev have seen quite a bit of each other in their fledgling careers, as Monday’s match will be their sixth meeting between the two. Zverev has won four of the previous five, including a five-set victory in their most recent encounter at the US Open.
Tiafoe will be playing his first match since that second round clash at Flushing Meadows.
Tiafoe made an encouraging start to the season, reaching a maiden Grand Slam quarter final at the Australian Open, but it’s been a largely uneventful campaign since then, as reflected in his 18-20 win-loss record for the season. There have been few bursts of brilliance, like in Miami, where he made the quarter finals, but the American young gun has not been able to consistently perform at his best over an extended period of time.
He broke into the top-30 for the first time after his exploits in Melbourne, and reached a career-high No. 29 a few weeks later, but he hasn’t been able to build on that, and is currently down at 43rd in the world. The 21-year-old has made quarter finals in Melbourne, Miami, Estoril, and Winston-Salem this year, but he is yet to reach a semi-final.
He has already suffered 10 opening round defeats this season, and will hope to avoid another when he plays Alexander Zverev on Monday. Tiafoe has three top-ten wins to his name, one of which was against Zverev in Cincinnati in 2017, but the German boasts an overall 4-1 record in their head-to-head, and has won their last two matches.
Zverev may be having an ordinary season, but Tiafoe hasn’t been great either, and the German, who has had the measure of the American in their previous meetings, should again be too strong in Beijing.
Alexander Zverev vs Frances Tiafoe is live from Beijing on Monday, 30 September from 5:00pm local time/ 10:00am BST