Italian Open Final Preview: Zverev vs Jarry

by Simon Zeitler
Nicolas Jarry tennis

And for the second consecutive Masters final we have a rather surprising matchup in Alexander Zverev against Nicolas Jarry. The German and Chilenean will battle for the last clay court Masters title of the year on Sunday – let us have a look at their ways into the final and their head-to-head.

Their season and tournament so far

Sascha Zverev is in a situation that he knows all too well for years – he definitely is one of the ATP’s top stars, but still one step away from his ultimate goal. The German, who currently stands at No.5 in the world, has been in this spot for most of his career. And just when he seemed to be reaching for the top spot and Grand Slam, he injured himself badly in the 2022 Roland Garros semifinal. Since then, he has not only come back from this injury, but also won two tournaments and reached two Slam semifinals.

But he has neither won above 500 level since then, nor has he reached the ranking of 2022. This season started with his first Australian Open semifinal and with the way he was playing there, many experts claimed that this could be the year. The clay court season started rather slow for him, with mid-round exits in both Monte Carlo and Madrid. But in Rome it seems that Zverev is onto something – his forehand works better than before and his game gets more and more varied by the day. Add his punishing first serve and probably one of the best backhands in the game, and you understand well why this man seems to be set for bigger things.

On the other side, Nicolas Jarry has surprised a lot of people with his Rome run. Yes, the Chilenean No.1 has reached the Buenos Aires final of this year and comes off a great 2023 season, but he wasn’t on many people’s list for a final in the Italian capital. But at last after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters, you have to take the big server into contention for his maiden Masters title. His serve is a massive weapon, backed up by solid groundstrokes and a very smart and calm game style, which enables him to fend off breakpoints and pressure moments quite often.

How do they stack up?

The two of them have met six times so far on tour, with the head-to-head going 4-2 in the favor of Sascha Zverev. Their latest meeting was in Beijing of last year, where Zverev held the upper hand – while Jarry won their last match on clay, in Geneva. Both are very tall players, equipped with a big serve, but for both of them the clay seems to be their natural surface. They do not move like your typical two-meter-tall player and can defend from well behind the baseline, but their game excels when they are in attack.

And that seems to be the deciding factor for this matchup – who will be able to play their game more often, without committing too many unforced errors or falling back behind the baseline. Especially Zverev will have to stay aggressive, as we all could witness in his first set against Alejandro Tabilo, where he suddenly seemed to be very vulnerable. Ultimately, he was saved by the nerves of Tabilo, who played a very tame tiebreaker. Judging from Jarry’s semifinal performance, he won’t do that favor to the German and that is where he should get his hopes up for a surprise.

Zverev the favorite, but can he keep his calm?

All stats, be it the quality of shots, head-to-head or the form coming into this encounter, are pointing towards a Zverev victory. The sportsbook odds indicate the same thing, with the German being held favorite by a clear margin. But there is a track record of him struggling in finals and important moments, thinking back to the Australian Open or that infamous US Open final against Thiem. With Jarry serving at the quality he has, it won’t be a big margin of error for the 26-year-old from Hamburg. 

Prediction: So, the match will come down to Zverev’s nerves and which player can be the aggressor in most points, an all-too-familiar theme in tennis. Still, I would predict a close two-set victory for Zverev, who will travel to Roland Garros as the man to beat in my eyes. This could really be the year for him, where he finally gets his first Slam title and shed the status of unfulfilled prodigy.

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