Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev are the most prominent young stars on the ATP Tour, and they already built a nice rivalry, playing against each other 4 times in 2017, thrice in Masters 1000 events. Kyrgios has the upper hand so far, beating Zverev by 6-3 7-5 in the semi-final of Beijing for his 3rd win over the German.
The match lasted 77 minutes and it was the Aussie who held the strings in his hands, serving great and playing aggressively from the baseline to overpower world number 4, breaking him once in each set to bring the win safely home. It was a very solid performance from Nick, who served well and had the edge in the rallies, defending his backhand nicely and moving Zverev out from his comfort zone.
German did his best to stay in touch, especially in the second set, but we never had a feeling that he brought his A game, unable to do much on the return and cracking under the pressure on own serve, double faulting on both occasions when he lost his serve! Kyrgios opted for well-established patterns rather than constant mixing of shots, staying on the baseline and enduring dynamic rallies with his rival, making a lot of damage with a forehand and standing strong on the backhand wing as well.
Alexander had only a slight advantage in the longest points, which Nick avoided successfully, and it never seemed that he has the match on his racquet. Kyrgios was hitting with more pace, variety, and depth, taking risks and keeping his rival under constant pressure.
Of course, he had to pay the price for that with the number of unforced errors, but the German made only a few less, unable to create some gap in that segment. In fact, they were pretty much even in all the segments outside the service winners (34-33 for Kyrgios) but Sascha sealed his faith with those double faults he hit in the worst possible moments.
Nick's initial shot was the most efficient weapon of the day, as Zverev never found a real rhythm on the return, winning just 10 points in 11 service games, earning one break point. Kyrgios lost 6 of those points in the 1st and 7th game of the opener when he had to work a little harder for a hold, having no such problems in set number 2 when he sailed through his service games, waiting patiently for Zverev's loose service game.
Kyrgios blasted 32 service winners, which gave him a lot of free room for all-or-nothing shots, breaking Zverev's rhythm even more. Sascha stayed on 14 unreturned serves and the difference Nick created in this segment is huge.
Also, the Aussie had a 9-7 lead in the winners from the field, making 4 unforced errors more on the other hand (15-11). They had 11 forced errors each, with Zverev attacking Nick's forehand and suffering to withstand the pressure on his backhand.
Also, Zverev had 3 double faults, and we said already how costly 2 of those turned to be. Another key element in Nick's victory is a great advantage he built in the shortest points, up to 4 strokes, winning 49 and losing 28 against the player with one of the toughest opening groundstroke after the serve in the game.
Even without service winners, Kyrgios was 17-14 in front, and he did a great job in beating Zverev in that segment, mainly thanks to his attacking game plan. It was 14-12 for Nick in the mid-range rallies from 5 to 8 shots, and Sascha only prevailed in the longest points, taking 3 out of 5, a number that was too small to change anything on the court.
German had a slight 19-17 advantage in the points that reach the 5th stroke but Kyrgios won the match in the shortest points area. Kyrgios opened the match with 3 service winners, Zverev went back to deuce but that was all he could do after 2 more unreturnable serves from the Aussie.
Sascha was also solid in his first service game, hitting 2 service winners, one from forehand, and taking a 20-stroke rally, something that he would try to make more frequent in the rest of the match. Nick moved 2-1 in front with 4 additional service winners, he already had 9 and that was something that should have to bother Zverev before the rest of the match.
The Aussie was more aggressive, he took the ball early and had the advantage in the rallies, and he earned the first break point in game 4. He failed to convert it and Sascha closed the game with 2 service winners, leveling the score at 2-2.
Kyrgios was untouchable on serve again in game 5, firing 3 service winners and finishing the game with a smash at the net, but Zverev responded well, with 3 winners in game 6 for a 3-3. The 7th game brought the first and only break chance for the German after 3 errors from his rival, before Kyrgios found his serve to get out of jail, holding after a forced error from Zverev to stay in front.
The 8th game proved to be crucial, from 30-15 Zverev lost 3 points in a row to get broken, hitting a very costly double fault on a break point to send his rival 5-3 in front. That was all Kyrgios needed to bring the set home, wrecking 3 service winners in game 9 to grab the opener in half an hour.
Nick served 29 times in the first set and Zverev failed to return 19 of those, which gave the Aussie a huge advantage and the room to play aggressive and brave tennis, while Zverev stayed on 7 service winners. German had 3 winners from the field, 1 more than his rival, and Kyrgios made more unforced errors, 9-4, which didn't affect the result.
Zverev had 1 forced error more than his opponent, 4-3, and it all came down to that double fault that took his serve away once. Kyrgios continued to charge at the start of the second set, creating 2 break points after a forehand winner (earlier in the set he attacked Zverev's first serve from the court and finished the point with a volley winner).
He missed both opportunities to earn a decisive break and Zverev held with a forehand winner and another 20-stroke rally that went to his side. They both served well in the next 3 games to be locked up at 2-2, Zverev gained a lead again in the entertaining 5th game but Nick followed all that, still keeping everything under control in his games.
Sascha lost 2 points in the 7th game thanks to forehand errors but he brought the game home for a 4-3 lead, and the result stood on 4-4 quickly after that, after another 3 service winners from Nick's racquet in game 8.
German had 2 service winners in game 9, creating a 5-4 advantage and forcing Kyrgios to serve to stay in the set, and the Aussie fired 3 service winners once again like it is the easiest thing in the world. The pressure was back on Zverev and he couldn't hold it, making 2 errors right after the serve to be 30-15 down in that 11th game.
Nick produced 2 break points after a spectacular 31-shot rally and he only needed 1, as Zverev double faulted again to let his serve and pretty much seal his faith. Nick lost just 3 points on serve in the opening 5 service games of the second set and the number stayed the same after the 12th game, clinching the win with 3 service winners to book the place in the final.
In set number 2 Nick had a 13-7 advantage in service winners and 7-4 in the winners from the field, outplaying German who failed to at least reach a tie break, despite playing well in the second set. They had a similar number of errors, it was 7-6 for Zverev in the unforced and 8-7 for Nick in forced, and that wasn't enough to make any change on the scoreboard.
That double fault that Sascha hit on a break point certainly was, and we should see how the next meetings between these two will develop.
Point by point result and the number of shots in the rallies: