Three-time ATP Masters 1000 champion Alexander Zverev takes a 4-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead over Daniil Medvedev into Sunday’s Rolex Shanghai Masters final. But the German knows that the Russian, who is now ranked higher than him, is not the same player he was in those four matches.
“In the past few months, he’s probably the best player in the world, making it to six finals in a row, winning a Masters , making it to the US Open final,” Zverev said. “So he’s definitely been playing the best tennis of his life.”
Zverev has won eight of his nine previous sets against Medvedev. But this year’s Cincinnati champion has now made six consecutive tour-level finals, becoming only the fifth active player to do so.
“He’s different this year than he was the previous years,” Zverev said. “Yeah, I’ve got what, 4-0? Whatever. But it was quite a while ago. Last time we played was in Toronto last year. So still a while ago, and he’s been playing some unbelievable tennis.”
The German has found some of his best tennis this week, too, reaching his first Masters 1000 final of the year and his sixth overall. He had not advanced past the quarter-finals at this level or at a Grand Slam this year.
But in the quarter-finals, he beat Roger Federer for his first Top 10 victory of 2019 and then followed that with a straight-sets triumph against Matteo Berrettini, a fellow contender in the ATP Race To London. Zverev believes he knows what has made the difference in Shanghai.
“My serve, obviously also the mental factor of coming back after you beat Roger and still being focussed and playing still good tennis,” Zverev said. “It was a much different match than against Roger. I mean, he’s obviously serving 230 [km/h] sometimes and not a lot of rallies. But when we got into the rallies I felt okay. I take a lot of positives from this into the final tomorrow.”
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Zverev did not face a break point against Berrettini, the recent US Open semi-finalist. That was a marked improvement for the World No. 6, who was broken twice in each of his first three matches this week. And perhaps most importantly, he only struck one double fault, a far cry from the 17 he hit in his Flushing Meadows loss against Diego Schwartzman and the 20 he committed in a defeat to Miomir Kecmanovic in Cincinnati.
For Medvedev’s part, he knows the level of tennis Zverev is capable of, and he has held the 22-year-old in the highest regard.
“I did say before this year and during this year in the beginning that Sascha was the best in our, let’s say, Next Gen group. He won three Masters [1000 titles] when none of us were even close to doing this,” Medvedev said. “Positions has changed a little bit, so I think I can contest him right now.”
Zverev’s big week has also put him in a good position in the ATP Race To Milan. He has moved up from eighth place to seventh with his Shanghai efforts, and Zverev is 330 points ahead of eighth-placed Berrettini.
“It feels great, obviously. I felt like I’ve played some decent tennis this week and being in a Masters 1000 final here in Shanghai is also something very special for me,” Zverev said. “I’m looking forward to [the final] and hopefully I can play some good tennis tomorrow.”