Alexander Zverev wins in Acapulco first higher-ranked tournament since 2018

By Jürgen Fritz, Sun. 21 Mar 2021, Cover picture: ATP Tennis TV-Screenshot

Done! Alexander Zverev wins the ATP 500 tournament (D category) in Acapulco, beating world number five Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 7-6 in the final after 2:17 hours. This is his first victory in a higher-ranked tournament above the ATP 250 series (E) since November 2018. At the D tournament in Dubai, however, there was a surprise final, quite unlike in Acapulco, where the tournament’s number one and number two faced each other in the final.

Dubai: Two surprise finalists

Let’s start with Dubai. Yesterday, Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev did not face each other in the final, as one would have expected before the tournament, nor did the third and fourth seeds Denis Shapovalov and Roberto Bautista Agut, but two completely different players. All 15 seeded players had been eliminated earlier. Dominic Thiem, who is not getting going at all this year, was immediately eliminated in his first match in the round of 32 against South African Lloyd Harris, losing 3-6, 4-6.

And Harris, the No. 81 in the ATP rankings, who had to go through the qualifying tournament to get into the 48-player main draw, actually played his way through to the final, beating Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals and – the next big surprise! – Denis Shapovalov, the third seed, who he beat in 2:41 hours 6:7, 6:4, 7:6.

In yesterday’s final, Harris met the second surprise of the tournament, the Russian Aslan Karatsev. Karatsev had already caused a sensation at the Australian Open when he reached the semi-finals as a qualifier, beating Diego Schwartzman (9 in the ATP ranking), Felix Auger-Aliassime (19) and Grigor Dimitrov (21), among others. Only Novak Djokovic was able to stop the Russian in the semifinals in Melbourne. Now the 27-year-old, who had never been in a final of an ATP tournament before, struck again and actually reached the final in Dubai (D). The world No. 42 beat the very strong young Italian Jannik Sinner in three sets in the quarter-finals.

In the semi-finals, Karatsev then met the current ATP 500 king, his compatriot Andrey Rublev, who has won four D tournaments in a row since Hamburg in September 2020 and was undefeated in 22 matches at ATP 500 tournaments. Rublev, No. 8 in the ATP rankings, went into the semi-finals as the clear favourite, but things were to turn out differently. Karatsev beat Rublev 6:2, 4:6, 6:4 and reached the first ATP final in his career. There he had little problems with Harris, the Thiem defeater, and defeated him smoothly 6:3, 6:2. The 27-year-old thus wins his first ATP tournament and rises from 42 to 27 in tomorrow’s world ranking. He has never been that high before. Double congratulations to the surprise player so far in 2021, who was still ranked 112 at the beginning of the year!

Acapulco: Tsitsipas and Zverev prevail

The D tournament in Mexico, on the other hand, was completely different. Here, the two top-seeded players prevailed. Stefanos Tsitsipas, the world No. 5, marched through the first two rounds without any problems and met 20-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals, against whom he had already lost twice in four matches. Tsitsiaps does not seem to like his game. He had problems again this time, but managed to win 7:5, 3:6, 6:4 after 2:03 hours. In the semi-finals, Tsitsipas met the Italian Lorenzo Musetti, who had just turned 19. He had knocked out the tournament’s No. 3 Diego Schwartzman in the first round and No. 5 Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals. But in the semi-finals it was all over for the super talent. Tsitsipas showed the three-year-younger his limits and beat him 6:1, 6:3, thus reaching the final.

There he met Alexander Zverev tonight. What a dream final for a D tournament: the No. 5 in the world against the No. 7. Zverev had marched through to the final without any major problems, did not drop a single set and once even had a free round because his opponent could not play due to injury. In the semi-final against his German compatriot Dominik Koepfer, things got a bit tighter, the match was even shaken by a slight earthquake, but in the end Zverev won confidently after 2:09 hours with 6:4, 7:6. So now the final against Tsitsipas. The personal record so far is 5:1 for the Greek.

A very important final for both players

A tournament win at this ATP 500 tournament would have been important for both players. Both have yet to win a tournament this year. Tsitsipas is playing quite well in 2021 and has had a more than decent start to the new season, but the 22-year-old Greek has only won one higher-ranked tournament in his entire career so far, namely the ATP Finals (B) in November 2019. His four other tournament victories were all at lower-ranked E tournaments (ATP 250). Moreover, his record in finals so far has been rather modest at 5-7. Tsitsipas has lost more than 58 percent of his finals so far. That’s not good for an absolute top player, for the No. 5 in the world.

But this match was also very important for Zverev. Unlike Tsitsipas, the German, who is just 16 months older, already had 13 tournament victories to his name and, above all, had won a lot of higher-ranked tournaments, but he had not managed the latter since November 2018. Until then, he had been on a great streak, winning not only three ATP 250 tournaments (E) from 2016 to 2018, but also two D tournaments (ATP 500), three Masters 1000 (C) and the ATP Finals 2018 (B). However, this was his last major tournament success. Three more E tournament wins followed – one in 2019, two in 2020 in Cologne – but no more major titles. But that was to change tonight.

Alexander Zverev wins a higher-ranked tournament for the first time since November 2018

Zverev started weakly, quickly trailing 0:3 and 1:4, but then gradually got better into the match. He was back in the match when he broke for 3:4 with a great backhand longline. At 4:4 and 30:40 from his point of view, Tsitsipas showed nerves once again and gave up his service with a double fault. Now Zverev had turned a 1:4 into a 5:4 and was serving to win the set. The German now drove his opponent more and more into the defensive and actually won set one 6:4 after just under 50 minutes, winning five games in a row.

Zverev started the second set similarly to how he had ended the first, opening with a hard forehand passing shot. But now the match went back and forth on equal terms. Until 4:4, neither of the two could pull away from the other. But then Tsitsipas serves at 4:6, 4:4 and has two break points against him at 15:40. And again he served a double fault on break point. So 6:4, 5:4 for Zverev and his own serve to win the match and the tournament. At 40-30, the world No. 7 actually has his first championship point after only 1:39 hours of play. But now Tsitsipas puts a lot of pressure with his forehand and forces Zverev to make a mistake. Match point averted. The Greek now has a break point and Zverev serves a double fault for 5:5. Everything is open again in the second set.

The German now tries to stay in the match, and he immediately has a break point at 6:5, which Tsitsispas fends off brilliantly and holds his serve. After Zverev follows up for 6:6, the match goes into a tiebreak. This has to decide the second set. Alexander Zverev hits several excellent passing shots and takes a 6:2 lead. Four Championship points in a row. That has to be enough now! Tsitsipas once again resisted the threat of defeat, reduced the score to 3:6 and continued to put pressure with his powerful forehand, stormed to the net again, but Zverev passed him again for 7:3 in the tiebreak. The German thus wins 6:4, 7:6 after 2:17 hours and remains without losing a set for the entire tournament.

The only player under 25 who has won more than ten ATP tournaments: Alexander Zverev

„It was an incredible tournament for me. I’m extremely happy with this title,“ said the winner after the match. „This is a place I extremely like to come to. I hope I can continue to play like I did here“, Zverev said. He now heads to the first C tournament of the year, the Masters 1000 in Miami, next week. Asked about this, the newly crowned Acapulco champion said: „I want to be happy for five minutes now, then I’ll deal with it“.

In Miami, there was a veritable flood of cancellations from the top eight players. First Federer withdrew, then Nadal and finally Thiem and Djokovic. This means that half of the world’s top players will be missing from the first Masters 1000 tournament of the year. But besides Medvedev and Rublev, Tsitsipas and Zverev will be there, seeded second and third, after Medvedev and before Rublev.

It is more than understandable that Alexander Zverev is extremely happy about this tournament victory. As mentioned, it is his first win at a higher-ranked tournament since November 2018, and with 14 tournament victories now, the German, who turns 24 in a month, is already one of the most successful active players.

Still active players with the most ATP tournament wins

A tournaments: the four Grand Slam events B tournaments: the Olympic Games and the ATP FinalsC tournaments: the nine Masters 1000D tournaments: the 13 ATP 500sE tournaments: the 40 or so ATP 250s

  1. Roger Federer (39 years): 103 tournament wins ==> 20 A – 6 B 28 C 24 D25 E
  2. Rafael Nadal (34): 86 tournament wins ==> 20 1 35 21 – 9
  3. Novak Djokovic (33): 82 tournament wins ==> 18 – 53614 – 9
  4. Andy Murray (33): 46 tournament wins ==> 3 – 3149 – 17
  5. Juan Martin del Potro (32): 22 tournament wins ==> 1 – 019 – 11
  6. Marin Cilic (32): 18 tournament wins ==> 1012 – 14
  7. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (35): 18 tournament wins ==> 0022 – 14
  8. Dominic Thiem (27): 17 tournament wins ==> 1 – 015 – 10
  9. Stan Wawrinka (35): 16 tournament wins ==> 3 – 013 – 9
  10. John Isner (35): 15 tournament wins ==> 0010 – 14
  11. Richard Gasquet (34): 15 tournament wins ==> 0000 – 15
  12. Alexander Zverev (23): 14 tournament wins ==> 0133 – 7
  13. Gilles Simon (36): 14 tournament wins ==> 0001 – 13
  14. Kei Nishikori (31): 12 tournament wins ==> 0006 – 6
  15. Daniil Medvedev (25): 10 tournament wins ==> 0131 – 5
  16. Gael Monfils (34): 10 tournament wins ==> 0003 – 7
  17. Sam Querrey (33): 10 tournament wins ==> 0002 – 8

And in comparison, the most successful U25 players so far after Zverev:

  • Andrey Rublev (23): 8 tournament wins ==> 0004 – 4
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas (22): 5 tournament wins ==> 0100 – 4

Alexander Zverev is the only active player under 25 who has already won more than ten tournaments, seven of them higher-ranked, just like Dominic Thiem, who is a good three and a half years older and has also won seven higher-ranked tournaments so far (Medvedev 5, Rublev 4, Tsitsipas 1). Medvedev, Zverev, Rublev and Tsitsipas are also the four top favourites to win the Masters 1000 in Miami, the first C tournament of the year, which starts on Wednesday. Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Thiem have already withdrawn.

Always won at least one tournament for the sixth year in a row

And Zverev can now boast yet another record: Since 2016, he has won at least one ATP tournament every season for the sixth year in a row. In this respect, he is already outstanding among active players at the age of less than 24:

  1. Rafael Nadal: 17 years (2004 to 2020)
  2. Novak Djokovic: 16 years (2006 to 2021)
  3. Dominic Thiem: 6 years (2015 to 2020) and Alexander Zverev: 6 years (2016 to 2021).

Spread over the years, it looked like this for Zverev:

  • 2016: 1 tournament win (E)
  • 2017: 5 tournament wins (EECDC)
  • 2018: 4 tournament wins (ECDB)
  • 2019: 1 tournament win (E)
  • 2020 (60 per cent season): 2 tournament wins (EE)
  • 2021: 1 tournament win (D)

Zverev’s tournament successes are also quite respectable in terms of value. Although he has not yet won an A tournament (Grand Slam), he has won the ATP Finals (B) once, three Masters 1000s (C), now also three ATP 500s (D) and seven lower-ranked ATP 250s (E).

The final highlights

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