Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev have both lifted some of the biggest trophies in tennis, from the Nitto ATP Finals crown to ATP Masters 1000 glory. But they’ve never reached a final at Roland Garros, and have yet to win a Grand Slam title.
When these two meet on Friday on Court Philippe-Chatrier, who will break new ground and challenge Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal for the title in Paris?
For sixth seed Zverev, experience might hold the key in the youngest Grand Slam semi-final in over a decade. The clash between 24-year-old Zverev and 22-year-old Tsitsipas will feature the youngest combined age between semi-finalists since Andy Murray, 22, defeated Marin Cilic, 21, at the Australian Open in 2010. It is also the youngest Roland Garros semi-final since 22-year-old Nadal defeated 21-year-old Djokovic here in 2008.
The German has also been knocking on the door of a major breakthrough for a while now, and he has the mental edge of having been to a Grand Slam final last year at the US Open (l. Thiem). Zverev owns a 1-1 win-loss record in Grand Slam semi-finals, while Tsitsipas has yet to go past this stage on three occasions.
Zverev also has more experience in fighting for – and clinching victory in – the biggest matches on the ATP Tour than his opponent, evidenced by his 17 tour-level titles, including four ATP Masters 1000s. Three of those have come on clay: at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in 2017 and the Mutua Madrid Open in 2018 and 2021. Zverev knows what it takes to make a breakthrough at the highest level.
“For a long period of time I was winning [ATP Masters 1000s], the Nitto ATP Finals, but I couldn’t get quite deep in Grand Slams,” Zverev reflected after his quarter-final victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. “I was putting bricks on myself. In a way, I was not performing to the level that I was in other tournaments. I was not playing the same level. I was very [impatient] with myself.
“In the Grand Slams, they’re still a different animal. Two-week-long tournament, you play every other day, you play five sets. It’s very different. You got to learn how to play them… Hopefully I can say that slowly but surely I’m starting to get the hang of it.”
Zverev won his first meeting against Tsitsipas in Washington, D.C. in 2018, as well as his most recent on his way to the title in Acapulco this year. But in the interim, Tsitsipas recorded five wins in a row to dominate their 5-2 ATP Head2Head (1-0 on clay courts).
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Tsitsipas, the FedEx ATP Race To Turin leader, made his Masters 1000 breakthrough two months ago at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters to set himself apart as one of the players to beat in the clay-court swing. He added a seventh tour-level trophy to his collection in Lyon before arriving in Paris.
The Greek has amassed a tour-leading 38 match wins on the season, including 21 on clay courts, another tour-leading figure.
“I’m playing good. That will show by itself,” Tsitsipas assured after his straight-sets win over Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals. “I don’t think there’s a player out there [in the draw] that thinks they can’t win the tournament. I’m pretty sure they all know they can play well.
“Of course I’m playing [well], and I think if I keep repeating the process, keep repeating the everyday hustle that I put [in], for sure there’s going to be a reward. And why not?”
He has also been thoroughly tested throughout the fortnight in Paris, but has come out on top each time at the expense of just one set in matches against Jeremy Chardy, Pedro Martinez, 31st seed John Isner, 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta and World No. 2 Medvedev.
In fact, the average ranking of Tsitsipas’ opponents across his previous five matches is 42, while Zverev’s is 97 after playing qualifier Oscar Otte, qualifier Roman Safiullin, Laslo Djere, Kei Nishikori, and Davidovich Fokina on his way to the semi-finals. Zverev will be facing his first seeded opponent in Tsitsipas.
In a match that could come down to the finest of margins, will it be battle-tested Tsitsipas or zoned-in Zverev who claims the victory – and moves to within one match of a Grand Slam breakthrough at Roland Garros?