Final Preview: Alcaraz Seeks Another First vs. Zverev | ATP Tour


The Caja Magica has proved a fitting name for the Mutua Madrid Open venue this week, with home favourite Carlos Alcaraz embarking on a magical run to the final at the ATP Masters 1000 event. After beating Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic for the first time to set up a title tilt against defending champion Alexander Zverev, the 19-year-old seeks his first win in three tries against the German on Sunday.

Should Alcaraz take the title Sunday, he will move to second place in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin, just 70 points behind Nadal, making it highly likely that he will eventually qualify for the year-end Nitto ATP Finals.

Before the singles final, Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah will take on in-form duo Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski for the doubles crown.

[2] Alexander Zverev (GER) vs. [7] Carlos Alcraz (ESP)

Zverev holds a 2-0 ATP Head2Head advantage over Alcaraz following a pair of dominant hard-court victories last season in Acapulco and Vienna. But the Spaniard has reached a stratospheric level in recent months, winning three ATP Tour titles and compiling a 5-2 record against Top 10 opponents.

Alcaraz enters the final with a 27-3 record on the season, level with Stefanos Tsitsipas for the most in the ATP Tour, while Zverev is not far behind at 21-7.

The 19-year-old is undefeated in his four previous tour-level finals, and on Sunday can become the youngest five-time champion since Nadal won seven titles by the same age in 2004-05. All that success made Alcaraz the newest member of the Top 10 himself entering this week, and his final run has lifted three more places to No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

But Zverev has proven to be the man to beat in Madrid, and will enter the final with a 19-2 record as a two-time champion in the Spanish capital (2018, 2021). Still, he downplayed his chances in the final against the red-hot fan favourite after seeing him take out Nadal and Djokovic in succession.

“Nothing that surprises me,” Zverev said of those results, “because I know how good he is. I said last year in Acapulco that by 2023 he’s going to be Top 10. He beat me by a year. There’s nothing more to say. He’s an incredible player. He’s going to be incredible. At 19 years old now, he looks like a grown man. To be honest, there’s no limit for him.”

Alcaraz did not know his final opponent after getting past Djokovic in the first semi-final, but was already making his recovery plans when he spoke with the press following that match. Not only will the Spaniard have to recover physically following that three-hour, 35-minute battle, he must reset mentally after defeating two tennis legends in as many days.

“After today’s match, of course with my team, with my family, we are going to have a great time to enjoy the moment. But I think that tomorrow I’m going to play a final of a really big tournament, and tonight I’m going to be very focussed to be able to recover and to [play] as best as possible for tomorrow’s match.”

Zverev also went three sets in the semis, against Tsitsipas, but needed less than two hours to advance in relatively dominant fashion. Despite the shorter match time, Zverev did not wrap up the win until near 1 a.m. due to a late start. Nonetheless, he said post-match that he planned to return to the court to practise ahead ahead of facing his “toughest opponent of the week” in the final. He did the same after a late quarter-final finish against Felix Auger-Aliassime and has made a habit of post-match practises in recent times.

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A look at the Balance of Power and Conversion & Steal metrics for the finalists paints an intriguing picture ahead of what may lie ahead. Both men are above average in Balance of Power, which measures the percentage of shots hit from an attacking position. Zverev is 11 percentage points above average at converting points from those attacking positions, while Alcaraz’s standout stat is the “steal” — he wins 42 percent of points in which his opponent gains an attacking advantage, beating the Tour average by seven percentage points.

The below figures were calculated from both finalists’ four matches in Madrid.

  Balance of

Power
Conversion Steal
Alcaraz 22% 69% 42%
Zverev 26% 76% 39%
Tour Avg. 21% 65% 35%

[5] Juan Sebastian Cabal (COL) / Robert Farah (COL) vs. [7] Wesley Koolhof (NED) / Neal Skupski (GBR)

Two of the in-form doubles teams on the ATP Tour meet for the first time in the Madrid final. Cabal and Farah, both former World No. 1s in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings, seek their first title of 2022 in their second final of the season. They fell just short of ATP Masters 1000 glory in Monte Carlo, losing a Match Tie-break in the final, and have earned an opportunity to atone for that result less than a month later.

Koolhof and Skupski, who stand atop the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Rankings, are competing in a tour-leading sixth final of the year as they aim for a fourth title. The Dutch-British duo continues to mesh perfectly after teaming for the first time in January. Like their opponents, they also suffered recent defeat in a Masters 1000 final when they lost to Hubert Hurkacz and John Isner in Miami. But the seventh seeds avenged that loss with a 7-6(7), 7-5 win over the singles stars in the Madrid semi-finals.

Following a Match Tie-break loss in the Barcelona final two weeks ago, Koolhof and Skupski are playing in their second consecutive final.

 



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