Sports Mole previews Friday’s ATP Finals round-robin match between Andrey Rublev and Alexander Zverev, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.
Andrey Rublev and Alexander Zverev will both endeavour to keep their hopes of progression to the ATP World Tour Finals semi-finals alive when they square off in Friday’s final Red group contest.
The Russian was condemned to back-to-back defeats by Carlos Alcaraz on Wednesday, while Zverev was no match for Daniil Medvedev, losing in straight sets to the third seed.
In a tale as old as time, the volatile Rublev allowed his destructive emotions to take over during his maiden ATP Tour meeting with Alcaraz on Wednesday, as he sought to bounce back from a comprehensive beating at the hands of good friend Medvedev.
Rublev battled hard in the first set, but there was little he could do to quell Alcaraz’s irrepressible groundstrokes as the Spaniard found the corners of the court with an array of stunning forehands and backhands en route to a 7-5 6-2 beating of his infuriated foe.
Donning a bloodied knee at the start of the second set, having taken his frustration out on his own body rather than smashing his racquet onto the court, Rublev could not recover after losing serve straight away and did not win a single point in the final three games of the contest.
Failing to bring up a single opportunity to break the Wimbledon champion on the day, Rublev now sits bottom of the Red group and will be consigned to another round-robin exit – his third from four ATP Finals campaigns since 2020 – with defeat to Zverev on Friday.
Rublev’s fate may be decided before Friday evening’s clash, though, as even if the 26-year-old can restore a sense of pride with victory over Zverev, he will miss out on a spot in the final four if Alcaraz improves to a 2-1 record by defeating already-qualified Medvedev in the afternoon session.
Also needing the result of the Alcaraz vs. Medvedev battle to go his way, German seventh seed Zverev was unable to prolong his perfect start to the Turin tournament in midweek, following up his remarkable beating of Alcaraz with a 6-7 4-6 loss at the hands of Medvedev.
Zverev’s aggressive approach would initially bear fruit, as he earned the first break of the match before Medvedev got back on level terms, and he established a 4-1 lead in the first-set tie-breaker only to capitulate with a couple of fatal mistakes.
On his first set point, Zverev sent an atrocious forehand return into the net and was often powerless against Medvedev’s ability to turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye, often coming to the net only to witness a succession of passing Medvedev shots fly past him.
Nevertheless, the 26-year-old – who was born exactly six months before Rublev – occupies second place in the Red group thanks to his opening win over Alcaraz, and he will join Medvedev in the semis with victory over Rublev if Alcaraz loses to the 2021 winner.
After shaking off an alarming foot scare in his opening match with Alcaraz, a fourth knockout appearance at the ATP Finals would cap off an impressive return to form for Zverev following his injury-curtailed 2022 season, as he bids to add to his year-end crowns from 2018 and 2021.
Tournament so far
Round robin: vs. Daniil Medvedev 4-6 2-6
Round robin: vs. Carlos Alcaraz 5-7 2-6
Round robin: vs. Carlos Alcaraz 6-7 6-3 6-4
Round robin: vs. Daniil Medvedev 6-7 4-6
Head To Head
Monte Carlo Masters (2016) – First round: Zverev wins 6-1 6-3
China Open (2017) – Quarter-final: Zverev wins 6-2 6-3
Shanghai Masters (2019) – Last 16: Zverev wins 6-0 7-6
Australian Open (2020) – Last 16: Zverev wins 6-4 6-4 6-4
Cincinnati Open (2021) – Final: Zverev wins 6-2 6-3
Dubai Tennis Championships (2023) – Semi-final: Rublev wins 6-3 7-6
Swedish Open (2023) – Quarter-final: Rublev wins 6-2 6-3
Vienna Open (2023) – Quarter-final: Rublev wins 6-1 6-7 6-3
Friday’s intriguing battle will represent the ninth ATP Tour meeting between Rublev and Zverev, and the German leads the way in the head-to-head column with five victories to three, all of which came in his first five showdowns with the Russian.
After triumphing over Rublev in the first round of the 2016 Monte Carlo Masters – where the Russian was a wildcard entry – Zverev marched to four consecutive hard-court wins over the current world number five, including the 2020 Australian Open last 16 and 2021 Cincinnati Open final without dropping a set.
However, since battling back from injury, Zverev’s powers have waned against Rublev, who has come up trumps in all of their meetings in 2023 so far, the most recent of which came on indoor hard courts at October’s Vienna Open.
On that occasion, Rublev saved all six points that Zverev managed to fashion, but that 6-1 6-7 6-3 win marked the first time that neither man managed to beat the other in straight sets, and the German is three-for-three in tie-breakers in this matchup too.
We say: Zverev to win in three sets
Zverev’s stunning triumph over Alcaraz and valiant effort against Medvedev means that momentum is on his side heading into Friday’s final round-robin battle, where an off-colour Rublev may only be playing for pride if results earlier in the day go against him.
The Russian had has Zverev’s number throughout the 2023 season so far, but the seventh seed is slowly getting back to his best, and if his enviable backhands find the mark, we can envisage the German ending his losing streak against Rublev to give himself a fighting chance of semi-final qualification.