Top-ten stars, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are set to go head-to-head on Sunday as Germany take on Greece at the ATP Cup in Brisbane.
Both nations lost their opening matches, and are under pressure to win on Sunday to boost their chances of progressing into the quarter finals of the ATP Cup.
While the two teams have top ten presence, the Germans boast the much stronger squad, with world No. 35, Jan-Lennard complementing Zverev in the singles department. They also have a couple of top-15 doubles experts to call on. Greece’s No. 2 singles player is the 487th-ranked Michail Pervolarakis.
Zverev and Tsitsipas are scheduled to meet in the marquee second match of the tie, but before that Struff and Pervolarakis meet in the battle of the No. 2s.
GERMANY ??: 1. Alexander Zverev 2. Jan-Lennard Struff 3. Mats Moraing 4. Kevin Krawietz 5. Andreas Mies. Captain: Boris Becker.
GREECE ??: 1. Stefanos Tsitsipas 2. Michail Pervolarakis 3. Markos Kalovelonis 4. Petros Tsitsipas 5. Alexandros Skorilas. Captain: Apostolos Tsitsipas.
Rubber 1: Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) vs Michail Pervolarakis (GRE), live from Brisbane from 5:30pm local time/ 7:30am GMT
World No. 35, Jan-Lennard Struff has an excellent chance to give Germany the early lead in this ATP Cup tie when he faces Greece’s Michail Pervolarakis on Sunday.
With 452 ranking spots between the players, Struff goes into this tie as the overwhelming favourite, as he holds a significant advantage in ranking and experience over his Greek opponent.
Despite losing 6-4 7-6 to Nick Kyrgios in his ATP Cup opener, Struff didn’t play too badly, but he fell short in the critical moments of the contest. The German sent down 15 aces and won 95% of points on his first serve, but he conceded the only break point of the match midway through the first serve, and consequently dropped his serve, and lost the second set tie break by the solitary mini break.
Struff had the best season of his career in 2019, putting together a 34-27 tour-level record and breaking into the top-40 for the first time. He made semi-finals in Auckland and Stuttgart, and ATP 500 quarter finals in Barcelona and Basel. Among his other notable results were fourth round runs at Indian Wells and Roland Garros, while went as far as the third round at Wimbledon, and at Masters 1000 events in Rome, Cincinnati and Paris.
His next opponent, Pervolarakis is ranked 487th in the world, and has never broken into the top 400. The 23-year-old Greek spent all of last year at the ITF and Challenger Tours, winning a couple of ITF M15 titles in Heraklion. His best Challenger results were a couple of third round runs in Las Vegas and Winnetka.
Pervolarakis started 2019 outside the top-600, but he rose as high as 433rd in the world, and ended the season just inside the top 500 at 487th.
He was decidedly second best in his ATP Cup opener against Felix Auger-Aliassime, losing 6-1 6-3 in what also doubled as his tour-level main draw debut. The Greek will hope to be more competitive when he faces Struff on Sunday, but his chances of pulling off a huge upset are very remote.
Rubber 2: Alexander Zverev (GER) vs Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE), live from Brisbane 7:00pm local time/ 9:00am GMT
The big guns collide in the second rubber as Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas meet for the sixth time in their young careers.
With Struff likely to beat Pervolarakis in the tie’s opener rubber, this could be a must-win encounter for Tsitsipas if Greece are to stay in this contest and force a deciding doubles rubber. The great news for Tsitsipas and Greece is that the Greek No. 1 is on a four-match winning streak against Zverev.
At this time last year, Tsitsipas was the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion and was merely a talented young gun with big prospects, but not many would have predicted his spectacular rise in 2019. The Greek was outside the top-90 at the start of the year, but he rocketed up to a year-end ranking of 6th after peaking in the top 5.
Tsitsipas claimed three titles last season, the most significant of which was his superb success at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. He was also victorious in Marseille and Estoril, reached finals in Dubai, Madrid and Beijing, and made the semi-finals of the Australian Open in a sensational start to his season. That set the tone for the rest of an outstanding year.
Tsitsipas fell just short in his ATP Cup opener on Friday, losing in two tie breaks to Denis Shapovalov.
“His serve was better than mine and in a few points in the tie-break, I didn’t work out what I had to do, and I didn’t have a clear picture of how I have to play,” Tsitsipas said of Shapovalov. “Today, he was just better [at] decision-making and he did things better than me.”
Can he score a vital win over Alexander Zverev to potentially keep Greece in the tie and in the competition?
It will be interesting to see how Tsitsipas fares in 2020 as he attempts to back up all the success from last season. He only needs to look at Zverev, the man he succeeded as Nitto ATP Finals champion, to realize how challenging it could be to keep performing at such a high level.
Zverev won the ATP Finals in 2018, jumping to No. 3 in the world and seemingly set to record more successes in 2019, but he was below par for most of the season, claiming just the solitary title at the ATP 250 tournament in Geneva. For most of the year, he looked set to miss out on Nitto ATP Finals qualification, but he rescued his season with a late surge, highlighted by a runner-up finish to Daniil Medvedev at the Shanghai Masters. The 22-year-old reached the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals, losing to Dominic Thiem.
Zverev appeared to be cruising to an opening day ATP Cup victory when he led Alex De Minaur 6-4 4-2 on Friday, but the German collapsed in the face of a strong fight back from De Minaur, falling away badly in the final set. Some of the serving demons from 2019 reappeared, with the world No. 7 contributing 14 double faults in the 4-6 7-6 6-2 loss
Can he put that disappointing effort behind him and produce a more consistent performance against Tsitsipas on Sunday?
Zverev defeated Tsitsipas in their first meeting in Washington in 2018, but Tsitsipas has taken complete control of the rivalry since then, winning four in a row, including three in 2019. The Greek was a dominant 6-3 6-2 victor in their most recent meeting at the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
I’d say Tsitsipas starts at favourite, partly because of that head-to-head, and also because he is generally the more consistent player. Zverev at his best can be unplayable, especially when he’s serving well, but he has repeatedly struggled to produce that best form over the last year.
Rubber 3: Doubles Rubber, to follow singles rubbers
Teams to be confirmed.
Going by rankings, Germany have the advantage in the doubles rubber, with Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies ranked 9th and 11th respectively in the doubles rankings. Greece’s highest ranked player on the doubles rankings is Stefanos Tsitsipas at No. 85 in the world. None of their other players is inside the top 400. If this tie is still alive heading into the doubles rubber, expect captain Apostolos Tsitsipas to call on his son Stefanos to help out in this one.