Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: ATP Tour 2020: Australia Open Semi-Final Preview

ATP Tour 2020: Australia Open Semi-Final Preview

ATP Tour: Australia Open Semi-Final Preview

We take a look at the ATP Tour's Australian Open semi-final matchup taking place at Melbourne Park between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev. 


ATP Tour 2020 | Australia Open
Men’s Semi-Final - 31st January | Melbourne Park, Australia

Dominic Thiem (5/10)
vs Alexander Zverev (15/10)

Please! This has to be the moment, right? Tennis scribes around the world have waxed lyrical about the NextGen for so long, I was wondering if it was ever going to happen. No player outside the Big Three has won a Grand Slam since Stan Wawrinka beat Novak Djokovic in 2016 US Open. But now there is certain to be one in this year’s final. Alex Zverev and Dominic Thiem were the likely candidates to usurp the throne a year ago. But the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Danil Medvedev seemed to move past the pair in the Grand Slam reckoning. But both of these guys have been exceptional this fortnight. Alex Zverev has reached his first Grand Slam semi-final, while Thiem will be competing in his first Grand Slam semi outside of Paris. They both overcame former champions in the last round, setting up a potential classic.

Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem started this event in quite indifferent fashion. He had to come from behind against an unheralded Bolt in the 2nd round. But he seemed to find his rhythm in a routine dismantling of Gael Monfils. But few could have envisaged his brilliance against Nadal. Thiem won his first-ever Grand Slam match against the Spaniard, avenging his last two French Open Final defeats. He was exceptional, with his backhand and forehand producing regular winners. But it was probably his defensive skills that surprised many, always forcing the indefatigable Nadal to play the extra ball. This will be his fifth Grand Slam semi-final, though the first to be played outside his beloved Paris. Dominic Thiem has had to work hard to shake off the image of pure clay-courter. But his results over the last 12 months have shown a marked evolution on harder surfaces.

He managed to win three titles on harder surfaces last season. Clearly, the biggest breakthrough came at Indian Wells where he beat Roger Federer in the final. It showed a dramatic new appreciation for the surface. That reputation continued to blossom as the season progressed, with titles in China and Vienna showing that Indian Wells wasn’t a fluke. He then reached the final at the ATP World Tour Finals, losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas. So his performance this year is hardly a fluke. It will be interesting to see if he can lift himself back up after such a monumental victory over Nadal.

Alexander Zverev
‘Sascha’ Zverev has apparently reiterated his commitment to donate all of his winnings to the Aussie Bushfire efforts. I wonder if deep down he wishes he could take that back now. In reality, when he said that his expectations were probably quite low. Zverev entered this event with no form, having lost all three matches at the ATP Cup. But he has been blistering in Melbourne, only dropping one set en route to the semi-final. He was blown off the court in the opening set against Wawrinka, which must have stirred some of that Grand Slam self-doubt. But a slightly more experienced Zverev seems to have thrived without the burden of rampant expectation. I was especially impressed with his unerring service accuracy against Wawrinka.

Zverev has long been considered a future World Number One prospect. But there have been some doubts about his ability to physically withstand the travails of a two-week Grand Slam. It’s fairly amazing that this is his first Grand Slam Final. But he seems to have bulked up a bit this year, growing into a more physically sturdy animal. His 2019 campaign was a middling one, with a title at a lowly Geneva event his only victory. But there were signs of his best tennis towards the end of the year. He reached the final in Shanghai before reaching the semi-finals at the ATP World Tour Finals. I think an important factor for Zverev is enjoyment. He seems to have abandoned his somewhat dour on-court mood and seems far more carefree on court.

Head-to-Head
Any way you cut it, Thiem is the overwhelming favourite. He leads their head-to-head 6-2. He won their last match in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour finals. What surprised me was Thiem’s superior record in hardcourt matches.  He leads Zverev 2-1. They have played twice in Grand Slam tennis, with Thiem winning both matches at Roland Garros. Thiem is a two-time Grand Slam finalist who seems to have all the odds in his favour.

The Verdict 
I really think there is value in backing Zverev here. I know it seems to contradict every point I have made. But how can you account for Zverev’s brilliance this week? He looks a rejuvenated player, with a serve that is winning him so many cheap games. Thiem may also feel the effects of that epic Nadal clash: Thiem has spent considerably more time on the court this fortnight. 15/10 looks pretty generous for a man who has only dropped one set thus far. 

Written by Damien Kayat for Hollywoodbets

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