As Alexander Zverev’s serve goes, so does his tennis, and strong serving over the past two months has helped the German to the best stretch of form in his career.
“My serve is kind of the key to my game. When it’s working, I’m playing great. When it’s not, I’m losing matches like I did at Wimbledon,” Zverev said. “I think it’s no secret that my serve is probably the most important shot in my game, and I’m happy with how it’s working. I hope I continue to get better throughout the next few matches and everything else.
“The matches are not going to get easier and I will need that to be my weapon.”
Could the 24-year-old’s serve help him win his first major title at the US Open? So far, so good.
No player remaining in the draw has won a higher percentage of service games than Zverev. The fourth seed has claimed 96 per cent of his service games (54/56) through four matches, dropping serve just twice.
|1st-Serve Pts Won||82% (179/217)|
|2nd-Serve Pts Won||60% (53/89)|
|Break Pts Saved||75% (6/8)|
|Service Gmaes Won||96% (54/56)|
Only two players in the field of 128 lost their serve less than twice during their stay in New York and both players, Jiri Vesely and Evgeny Donskoy, lost in the first round. Zverev also ranks second among remaining players in first-serve points won (behind Lloyd Harris) and second in second-serve points won (behind Carlos Alcaraz).
The German’s toughest test yet came in the fourth round against Jannik Sinner. But Zverev triumphed in straight sets against the 13th seed, saving six of the seven break point he faced. Glaringly, 26 per cent of his second serves went unreturned compared to 13 per cent for Sinner.
“It’s not easy playing against him. [He] has confidence. He serves well,” Sinner said. “When someone is serving well, you can try a little bit [different things] in the return game.”
“In Tokyo, all of a sudden it clicked, because in Wimbledon I had a very bad serving match against Felix. That was the reason I lost,” Zverev said. “Since Tokyo, it’s been a lot better, but it can still be a lot better, as well.”
That is a scary thought for the remainder of the field, as Zverev has won 15 consecutive matches. During that stretch, the German has dropped just three sets.
Last year at Flushing Meadows, Zverev advanced to his first major final and came within two points of the trophy. But that run was almost in spite of his serve. In four of his seven matches, he hit at least 10 double faults, including 15 in the final against Dominic Thiem. En route to the quarter-finals, he faced 25 break points.
In his first four matches combined this year, he has hit 10 double faults and faced just eight break points.
“The serve is the shot I spend the most time on. It’s the shot I practise the most as well,” Zverev said. “I am someone that needs that repetition, and I feel like the hard work maybe [is starting to come] along.”