Twelve months ago, Alexander Zverev missed a chance to play in the final in Basel after a tight semi-final loss to Marius Copil. The German will not have the opportunity to chase the trophy at this ATP 500 event this week as well, suffering a 7-6, 6-4 loss to his coeval Taylor Fritz in an hour and 24 minutes for the second first-round exit in Basel in three appearances.
In a season full of ups and downs, world no. 6 is still a contender for the place at the ATP Finals, standing seventh in the Race but spoiling his run badly with this early exit, the seventh at the beginning of the tournament so far in 2019.
The American had lost eight of the last ten matches after reaching the final in Los Cabos in August but there was nothing wrong with his tennis today, hitting 37 winners and 27 unforced errors and keeping the points on his racquet against the opponent who finished the encounter with 29 winners and 24 mistakes.
There was only one break of serve in the entire clash and it was Taylor who delivered better numbers on both the first and second serve to emerge as the deserved winner, overcoming a 4-1 deficit and a set point in the first set tie break and sealing the deal with a single break in set number two for the place in the second round.
Alexander created a break chance in the third game of the match that could have sent the momentum to his side of the court, denied by an ace from Fritz who stayed on the level terms with the 2nd seed until the tie break where Zverev moved 4-1 in front.
In the pivotal moments, the German lost the next two points on serve to bring Fritz back into contention, saving a set point at 5-6 and creating one of his own when Taylor missed a forehand. Instead of closing the set, Alexander played a passive point and Fritz took full advantage of that, leveling the score at 7-7 with a smash winner, earning another mini-break and clinching the opener with an ace after 49 minutes.
Zverev's second and last break chance came in the second game of the second set when he netted an easy return, barely winning a point on the return in the remaining four games and having to repeat Taylor's pace to stay in contention.
With the momentum on his side, the American grabbed a break in the very next game to open a 2-1 lead after a loose forehand from Zverev, serving well in the remaining games to grab the 29th victory of the season and send Zverev to Paris where he has to chase much better result if he wants to qualify for London.