Zverev edges Isner in Day Two thriller
Germany’s Alexander Zverev maintained his dominance against John Isner on Saturday afternoon at the Laver Cup, securing his seventh win in nine career head-to-heads against the American, 7-6(5) 6-7(6) 10-5, at Boston’s TD Garden.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev maintained his dominance against John Isner on Saturday afternoon at the Laver Cup, securing his seventh win in nine career head-to-heads against the American, 7-6(5) 6-7(6) 10-5, at Boston’s TD Garden. The win increased Team Europe’s lead to 7-1.
It marked their third Laver Cup encounter, having split their two previous matches in Chicago and Geneva.
“In this format, playing against John is probably one of the toughest opponents that can be,” said Zverev, the Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo this summer. “He’s the best server of all time. He’s hitting the ball extremely hard, extremely well today. I played a pretty good match. Even the second set that I lost, I don’t think I did many things wrong. That just shows that the match was very high level, and I’m very happy to give Europe the lead.”
The pair had faced off on the doubles court only hours earlier, with the duo of Isner/Denis Shapovalov defeating Zverev/Matteo Berrettini, 4-6 7-6(2) 10-1, on Friday night. But it was Zverev who would come out ahead on Day 2.
Neither player blinked until the opening-set tiebreak. Isner, 36, would gamble with a massive forehand return at 5-all in the breaker, just catching the net cord and setting up a set point for his opponent. Zverev made the most of the opportunity, forcing a forehand volley error from the 22nd-ranked Isner to take the set.
Isner would fight off a triple-break-point predicament to pull level at 4-all in the second set, and eventually force another tiebreak. He opened with a mini break, a booming forehand return all but knocking the German off his feet and was soon ahead 3-0. Zverev later saved a set point at 5-6 with a backhand volley pass, but couldn’t save a second at 6-7, Isner deadlocking the match at a set apiece with his 20th ace of the two-hour, 18-minute contest.
Zverev received some conflicting advice in the second set, some of it coming from his bench, some of it coming from none other than Roger Federer in the stands.
“My entire team was telling me to step back on the returns; then Roger is behind me telling me to step in on the returns. I was confused,” laughed Zverev. “I didn’t know who to listen to. Do I listen to eight people on the bench, or do I listen to 20 Grand Slams over there?”
Once again, the 10-point Laver Breaker would come into play, with Zverev finally pulling ahead for good. The 6-foot-10 Isner, a self-described ‘servebot,’ knew he would need to capitalize on his biggest weapon in order to stand a chance against the World No. 4. Although he would out-ace Zverev, 22-13, it was simply not enough to pull off an upset.
“We could have just skipped two hours of tennis and gone straight to three tiebreakers,” Zverev joked. “Both of us had the belief that we could break each other.”
In addition to his breakthrough at the Tokyo Games, the 24-year-old Zverev has won titles in Acapulco, Madrid and Cincinnati, while notching Top-5 wins over the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Laver Cup teammate Stefanos Tsitsipas.