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Alexander Zverev defeated Arthur Fils (6/2 6/4) in the Hamburg Open semi-finals on Saturday 29, July.

This encounter had high stakes for both players. The winner hoped to prove that he could play his best tennis in his hometown while the young French wanted to show what he is capable of. The two players reached their goals. Week after week, the German is one step closer to reaching the level of tennis he played in the 2022 French Open semi-finals against Rafael Nadal. During the last minutes of the match, Arthur Fils gave us all hope for the future of French tennis.

The first set illustrated the gap between the two players. While the former world number two used his favorite weapons – his backhand and his first serve – the young French let go of the tennis that allowed him to come so far in the tournament. Despite the topspin he imprinted on his strikes, Arthur Fils was to passive to worry Sasha Zverev. The latter broke early after his opponent shot a passing towards the wrong side: 2/0. Full of confidence, the German forced the Open Parc champion to step back thanks to his depth. The young player was out of solutions: he didn’t win the duels on the backhand side but didn’t manage to trap Alexander Zverev on his forehand side either. The score showed the gap between the two players at the beginning of the encounter: 4/0. It was already too late when Arthur Fils pulled himself together. Untouchable thanks to the quality of his serve, Sasha Zverev clinched the first set with an ace: 6/1.

The way Arthur Fils played in the last games gave hope for a tied second set. However, the young French did the unforgivable. A string of unforced errors gave an early break away to his opponent. Alexander Zverev confirmed this precious advantage despite a double fault. Then, the set’s dynamic took a turn. Convincing games from Arthur Fils followed one another. He passiveness gave way to a measured risk-taking. The Olympic champion kept his advantage thanks to his powerful serves. Sascha Zverev showed a lack of serenity. He didn’t seem convinced that he could win the rallies without his first serve: 5/4. The last game of the encounter confirmed the German’s fears. On the verge of being defeated, Arthur Fils had nothing to lose. He imprinted aggressiveness on his strokes until he received a ball short enough to hit a winner. Sascha Zverev survived thanks to his 217km/h serves that landed on the T. Match point swept before the latter’s eyes without him being able to convert them. With a bit of chance, the German played a defensive ball with so much topspin that it lobed his opponent. The encounter ended: 6/2 6/4.

During this semi-final, which didn’t end up in his favor, Arthur Fils showed the extent of his arsenal: a dazzling forehand, consistency of the backhand side, abilities at the net and an impressive bravery from such a young player. The German week will remain as a good memory in the French’s mind. Beating the third player of the world [6/0 6/4 against Casper Ruud in the quarter finals] in two straight sets isn’t a feat that you forget easily.

The Hamburg Open couldn’t have happened at a better time for Alexander Zverev. On known ground, the victory tastes even better. Lifting the trophy in front of Laslo Djere [7/5 6/3] gives him two great advantages. The first one is confidence to start the American swing – where he always had success. The second one is 500 precious points if he still hopes to qualify for the ATP Finals at the end of the season.

Marnie Abbou

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