Just like with a couple of other smaller tournaments in 2019, Alexander Zverev had taken a late wild card for Stuttgart, preparing for a solid run on grass after reaching the quarter-final at Roland Garros. Alexander wasn't particularly happy when he saw Dustin Brown across the net in the first encounter, with the German veteran already scoring some impressive wins on the fastest surface, including Wimbledon champions Lleyton Hewitt and Rafael Nadal.
Equipped with booming serves, aggressive net approaches, amazing dive volleys, slices, lobs and drop shots, Dustin is a nightmare to play against on the fastest surface and he demonstrated that against world no. 5 today, toppling Zverev 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in two hours for only the fifth top-10 win and the first since Montpellier 2017 when he ousted Marin Cilic.
Ranked 170th, Dustin has to seek points and money on the Challenger Tour, passing the qualifying round here in Stuttgart for the first ATP appearance since Munich last year. It was also the first ATP triumph for Brown since the US Open 2017, earning it after repelling 13 out of 14 break points, limiting the damage in his games and finding himself over the top after scoring three breaks from ten chances.
Ivan Lendl is back in Zverev's coaching box but his game is certainly not, hitting 21 aces also 14 double faults, many of those in the pivotal moments that plagued his chances for victory. There was nothing wrong with Alexander's first serve and the second let him down completely, taking only nine from 32 points and not being able to keep the focus in the closing stages of the deciding set.
Never finding the rhythm against the rival who used every opportunity for attack and imposing his shots, Zverev hit a double fault in game three to suffer a break and lose the momentum after just a couple of minutes. Brown repelled a break point in the eighth game to move 5-3 up and created four set points on the return in the next game to close the first part of the match.
Alexander erased them all to reduce the deficit to 5-4 before Dustin landed four winners in the next game for a 6-4 after 32 minutes, returning from the baseline and controlling the rallies. Zverev needed six break points in the second game of the second set, converting the last one after a forehand error from Brown, serving well in the next 20 minutes and moving 5-3 up, looking good to secure this part of the match in the ninth game.
Out of sudden, Dustin broke back at 15 following a perfect drop shot and had the upper hand now, wasting two break points in the 11th game to keep Zverev alive and serving to stay in the set at 5-6. The youngster created four set points and failed to convert any of those, having no room for errors in the breaker that he won 7-3 after a loose drop shot from Brown to send the encounter into a decider.
There, nothing could have separated them in the first six games, with just three points for the returners, and Zverev was the first to pull the trigger on the return, earning three break points at 3-3. Keeping his focus, Dustin fended them off and gathered boost, breaking Alexander in the next game after a volley winner and sealing the deal with some incredible volleys on serve to move over the top and celebrate the biggest victory in years.
"First of all, thank you. As I said, I knew what I wanted to do coming out here. Today was the best weather during the entire week, the court, for me, played a little bit slower and it made serve&volley play very difficult, especially against the returner of Zverev's caliber.
I had my chances in the second set but my first serve wasn't there, I'm not sure I put any of those in in the tie break. I lost it in the end but started serving better in the third and I'm happy to play good tennis and to be on grass courts again.
Coming to Stuttgart, I had no expectations, I just wanted to play well on grass again, which wasn't the case in the previous season, and I'm really happy with the way I have been playing in the last couple of days. The body is holding up and that's the most important thing."