It’s a very rare occurrence in recent times in the men’s game when we get a brand new Grand Slam champion. Today is one of those days! I looked through several metrics for both Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem in New York the past couple of weeks as well as their rivalry to highlight what to look for in this afternoon’s final.
Let’s get to it!
Here are the unfortunate second serve metrics for Alexander Zverev in the six matches to the final.
- Double Faults = 1124
- 2nd Serves Hit = 10742
- Average = 1 double fault for every 9.6 2nd serves hit
- Double Faults = 49
- 2nd Serves Hit = 238
- Average = 1 double fault for 4.9 2nd serves hit
- Double Faults = 13
- 2nd Serves Hit = 204
- Average = 1 double fault for every 15.7 2nd serves hit
So, Zverev is double-faulting at twice the rate of the rest of the tournament (1 from 4.8 vs 1 from 9.6) and at triple the rate of Thiem (1 from 4.9 vs 1 from 16.7). This is not just some side stat that we don’t really need to pay attention to. The other key thing to take into consideration is that the more pressure there is in the moment, the more the world is going to be glued to their tv sets wondering if a double fault is coming. That’s pressure right there.
Here are Zverev’s six matches to the final
- Rd 1 def Kevin Anderson = 6 double faults
- Rd 2 def. Brandon Nakishima = 10 double faults
- Rd 3 def Adrian Mannarino = 11 double faults
- Rd 4 def Alejandro Davidovich Fokina = 2 double faults
- QF def Borna Coric = 12 double faults
- SF = def Pablo Carreno Busta = 8 double faults
I just can’t see Zverev committing 8-12 double faults against Thiem and still winning the match. If he is able to keep them down in the 0-5 range, then he has a legitimate shot.
Extended Rallies of 9+ Shots
You think that this is a key battleground in the final. It’s won’t be. Consider this…
How good are Thiem and Zverev in longer rallies? You would think that they are amazing and that long rallies are where they knuckle down and really attack the legs and lungs of their opponents. You would think that these two guys – the last two standing – are simply the best at keeping the ball in play once the rally gets long. For sure that’s a key factor for both players as to why they reached the final and the other 126 didn’t, right? Wrong…
Sit yourself down, turn off Sponge Bob, and lock your focus on the next sentence. Read it three times in a row out loud.
BOTH Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev have a LOSING record in long rallies.
- Zverev: 84 won / 92 lost = -8
- Thiem: 90 won / 93 lost = -3
Let’s start with the fact that both players have just won six consecutive matches. They are undefeated and their match metrics should look simply amazing. But not in long rallies. Here’s where they both have crafted their advantage.
- 0-4 Shots: 542 won / 450 lost = +92
- 5-8 Shots: 167 won / 141 lost = +26
- 9+ Shots: 84 won / 92 lost = -8
- 0-4 Shots: 380 won / 281 lost = +99
- 5-8 Shots: 139 won / 100 lost = +39
- 9+ Shots: 90 won / 93 lost = -3
Both Thiem and Zverev have crafted a big advantage in the 0-4 shot range. It’s the main reason they are in the final and it will be crucial to decide the 2020 US Open champion. Pay very close attention to the first four shots of the rally, which are:
- Serve +1
- Return +1
The first four balls in the court will matter more than what follows.
Forehands & Backhands
- Zverev = 79 winners / 123 errors = -44
- Thiem = 69 winners / 156 errors = -87
This is surprising and offers hope for Zverev. I would have expected Zverev’s ratio to be worse, as Zverev is a player that you can attack wide to the Deuce court making him hit a running forehand. Thiem’s forehand is a big weapon from the back of the court. Let’s see if it behaves itself in the final.
- Zverev = 43 winners / 196 errors = -153
- Thiem = 38 winners / 167 errors = -129
Zverev’s backhand is typically rock-solid, but it’s leaking more errors than Thiem’s is and has a worse winner/error ratio. Again, let’s see how it performs when Thiem is throwing the kitchen sink at it.
- Zverev = 70% won (136/193)
- Thiem =78% won (84/108)
Zverev needs to come to the net more than Thiem in the final. When Thiem drifts back in the court to take big cuts at the ball, Zverev needs to move up, take time away, take the ball early, and approach. He needs to pressure Thiem from the front of the court as well as the back of the court.
- Zverev = 47% (347/737)
- Thiem = 53% (344/648)
Very surprising to see Zverev under 50% here. 47% is actually quite a low number. He can probably win the final winning 47% if he attacks the net a lot and keeps double faults to under five.
Thiem is quite dominant at 53%. There is no way he loses the final if he posts the same number.
Overall, Thiem leads 7-2. Here’s their matches since 2017.
- 2020 Australian Open Semi-Final: Thiem def Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(4)
- 2019 Nitto ATP Finals Semi-Final: Thiem def Zverev 7-5, 6-3
- 2018 Roland Garros Quarter-Final: Thiem def Zverev 6-4, 6-2, 6-1
- 2018 Madrid Final: Zverev def Thiem 6-4, 6-4
- 2017 Rotterdam Rd32: Thiem def Zverev 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Everything points to Thiem winning in 3 or 4 sets. He is not the one that needs to make any adjustments in the final. For Zverev to win, he has got to find a way to win the 0-4 shot rally length more than anything else. Typically, that means bringing more firepower to the first two touches of the ball. That can be risky, but he may have no other choice.
Have a great match, gentlemen! 👏👏