Two giants have reached the final in Madrid, but their routes to the final are as different as possible. The Italian faced compatriot Fabio Fognini in the first round and Argentinian Delbonis in the second, beating both in straight sets. His first seeded opponent was Cristian Garin, who gave him a tough time in the first set and the beginning of the second before Berrettini reeled off 11 games in the row to reduce the contest to a one-sided affair. Berrettini then met Ruud in the semis, a tough youngster on his career high who beat Tsitsipas earlier in the tournament. Berrettini’s red-hot serve + forehand carried him through to a comfortable win, where he faced no break points.
On paper, Zverev’s draw was a lot more difficult. His first opponent was veteran Kei Nishikori, who took a 6-2 set off of Nadal in Barcelona. However, he demolished the Japanese and set the tone for the rest of the tournament from there. He recorded another straight sets win against the gritty Dan Evans to set a match with the God of Clay, Rafael Nadal. The German snatched back 2 breaks and the lead from the Spaniard in the first set, and Nadal had no answers to Zverev’s game after that point. Zverev then faced down Dominic Thiem in what proved to be arguably his most complete performance of the match, which concluded in another straight sets victory.
With two gargantuans playing at the top of their level, this match will likely come down to who can stick to their patterns the longest, and who’s mental game is the strongest.
- Zverev leads the head to head 2-1 (Last match: Zverev d. Berrettini @ Shanghai 2019)
- Zverev is 11-7 in 2021, with a notable straight-sets win against Rafael Nadal
- Berrettini is 12-3 in 2021, with a notable three-set win against Khachanov (notable because all three sets went to tiebreakers, two of which were 5-7)
- Zverev is 6-2 on clay in 2021
- Berrettini is 8-1 on clay in 2021
Zverev’s advantage over Berrettini is his backhand. He needs to take advantage of that by engaging in backhand crosscourt rallies, and crushing the Berrettini slice down the line with his forehand early on. This should instigate some doubt in Berrettini’s mind, which could mitigate the threat the Italian poses as soon as possible. Zverev also needs to utilize his own serve-forehand combination, because Berrettini will be getting a lot of easy points on his big serve. This will help to take the pressure off of the German’s game. Furthermore, Berrettini did lose a set against Garin, who was also serving well. Zverev can look to copy the Chilean’s strategy by holding strong on his own serve and waiting for Berrettini to crack.
Round 1 | def. Nishikori 6-3 6-2
Round 2 | def. Evans 6-3 7-6 (3)
Round 3 | def. Nadal 6-4 6-4
Round 4 | def. Thiem 6-3 6-4
MATTEO BERRETTINI - KEYS TO THE MATCH
To beat Zverev, Berretini needs to utilize the same patterns of play that he has been utilizing throughout the entire tournament; big serves, big forehands, and returning to his opponent’s weaker shots. Berrettini needs to keep the ball deep above all else, so that the Zverev ball has more time to slow down and the angles Zverev has are mitigated. The Italian needs to be wary of approaching the net because of Zverev’s huge frame. Berrettini can also make good use of the dropshot, since tiring out Zverev’s legs will help to break down his serve, which could prove crucial later in the match.
Round 1 | def. Fognini 6-3 6-4
Round 2 | def. Delbonis 7-6 (4) 6-4
Round 3 | def. Garin 5-7 6-3 6-0
Round 4 | def. Ruud 6-4 6-4
Zverev and Berrettini are two youngsters whose careers are in slightly different places. Although Zverev is junior to the Italian, he has 14 titles to Berrettini’s 4, including 3 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments (1 in Madrid) and a Nitto ATP Finals Championship. However, Berrettini has beaten the German in their most recent encounter on clay, and since the Madrid surface favors power over topspin, Berrettini’s play style is only becoming deadlier. The bottom line is, while Zverev may be the better starter, his mental shortcomings make Berrettini the better finisher.
Prediction: Berrettini in 3 sets
Written by: Vikram Khandelwal