Sascha Zverev defeats Davidovich Fokina 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 to reach Roland Garros semis
Alexander “Sascha” Zverev, the 2020 US Open finalist, reached a career-high ranking of #3 in the fall of 2017. The twenty-four-year-old German, and 6th seed, was hoping the third time was the charm having reached the quarters twice before (2018, 2019) but never further.
He has performed exceptionally well on the dirt this season having reached the fourth round or better at each event including a monumental win at the Masters 1000 event in Madrid where he dispatched Kei Nishikori, Dan Evans, Rafa Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Matteo Berrettini in the final.
On the terre battue in Paris where he has yet to meet a seeded player, he was pushed to five sets in the opening round by his countryman, Oscar Otte but has won each subsequent round in straight sets.
His opponent, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina from Spain, recently turned twenty-two and is ranked #45, a career-high. During this fortnight he has gallantly survived two, five-set battles including a third-round victory over the red-hot, #15 seed, Casper Ruud. He too has had a successful clay court season with impressive wins over world #9 Matteo Berrettini, Alex De Minaur, Cam Norrie, and Grigor Dimitrov.
Last season they met twice, both on hardcourts and both won by the German. Davidovich Fokina won the toss but elected to receive.
Zverev opened with a double fault and made just 1/6 first serves and dumped serve when his opponent hit an outstanding forehand drop shot.
Zverev earned a break point with a fantastic crosscourt backhand volley and converted with the same. Serving up 2-0, the German donated another double fault and once again made 1/6 first serves but consolidated the break when his opponent’s return sailed long.
Davidovich Fokina got on the scoreboard with a good serve and a brilliant backhand down the line but faced three break points yet held for 2-2 with an amazing crosscourt backhand and inside-out forehand on consecutive points.
Zverev committed three unforced errors off the backhand and faced double break point and dropped serve when he netted a forehand swing volley.
Davidovich Fokina opened the sixth game with an exquisite forehand drop shot but gave back the break as the unforced errors continued to accrue. Back on serve, the world #6 regrouped, holding at love for 4-3. The Spaniard missed 6/6 first serves and not surprisingly, dropped serve following three consecutive mistakes off the ground.
Zverev served for the set at 5-3 but could not consolidate the break, dropping serve following his third double fault. Neither player competed at an exceedingly high level, and it was anyone’s guess who would secure the opening set. Davidovich Fokina continued to miss the first serve and following his second double fault, lost serve and the set 4-6 when he netted a makeable backhand.
Zverev served first in the second and seemingly found another gear, holding at love for 1-0. Davidovich Fokina had a more difficult opening service game but held to 30 for 1-1 with a well-struck overhead smash.
Zverev opened the third game with a huge serve and terrific crosscourt backhand and following his first ace and a mishit return, once again held at love. Davidovich Fokina could not buy a first serve and after three consecutive forehand errors, dropped serve for 1-3.
Despite missing 3/6 first serves and committing two errors off the ground, Zverev held to 30 for 4-1. Davidovich Fokina, clearly depleted of energy and a bit dejected, committed four additional unforced errors to dop serve for the second time.
Zverev served for the set with new balls and after striking his second ace, closed out the set 6-1 with an extraordinary backhand down the line pass. The German had undoubtedly found his groove, upping the intensity and ferocity when needed to take control of the match. Following the conclusion of the second set, Davidovich Fokina left the court ostensibly to change his attire.
He served first in the third and immediately came under pressure, facing three break points and dropped serve when he netted a forehand. Zverev consolidated the break for 2-0 with three incredible forehand winners, two inside-in and one crosscourt on consecutive points.
Davidovich Fokina regrouped admirably, holding at love for 1-2 with an amazing inside-out forehand and backhand down the line on consecutive points.
Zverev returned the favor, holding at love for 3-1 with a colossal serve up the tee. Davidovich Fokina opened with a deft dropshot but following three unforced errors, dropped serve to go down 1-4. Zverev, just two games from his first semifinal at Roland Garros, quickly held to 15 with a well-struck serve and forehand swing volley winner.
Davidovich Fokina, serving to stay in the match, could not find another level and conceded the match when Zverev ripped a backhand down the line.
It was not always pretty but when it most mattered, he produced. After 1 hour and thirty-six minutes, the 2021 Madrid Open champion reached the semifinals at the French Open for the first time in his burgeoning career.
Davidovich Fokina will most definitely need to improve the serve if he hopes to climb further up the rankings. He won just 48% on first serve and an abysmal 31% on second serve points. He was quite efficient at net, winning 7/10 points and converting 3/6 break points but committed more than double the number of errors to winners (37/16).
Zverev finished with 3 aces to 3 double faults and won an impressive 76% on first serve and 57% on second serve points. The second serve, a liability for the German, has drastically improved but still poses problems. Like his opponent, he was effective at net, winning 12/19 points, converting 9/15 break points, and struck 24 winners to 16 errors.
He will face a frequent nemesis no matter the outcome of the evening’s quarterfinal match. He has a winning record against the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion and world #2, Daniil
Medvedev (5-4) but a losing record (2-5) versus the 2021 Rolex Monte Carlo Masters champion, Stefano Tsitsipas.
Either way, it promises to be a spectacular semifinal duel with a spot in a grand slam final and two thousand ranking points on the line.