If Novak Djokovic is to progress to the final at Roland Garros and win the French Open for a second time, he is going to have to go about it the difficult way. One of the final berths will be secured by either Roger Federer or, more likely, defending champion Rafael Nadal. To even get that far, the World Number One will likely need to beat last season’s runer-up Dominic Thiem in the semi-final, and first of all the Serb needs to take care of Germany’s Alexander Zverev in today’s quarter-final.
It was at this stage last year that Djokovic retired hurt, allowing Thiem to progress, but this time around the man from Belgrade is showing no signs of injury; he hasn’t dropped a single set, and not once has he been taken to a tiebreak. Zverev, aged just 22, is one of the youngest players in the world’s top ten. Reason dictates that at some point, he will break through and win one of the tour’s biggest events, but will it be this one? Below, we look at the facts and make our predictions – and give you some tips on the best bets to be made on this match.
Djokovic to set the tempo
There is no doubting Zverev’s quality – you don’t rise to the top five in the world and stay there for a year without being one of the top players in the game. However, to take the next step the German is going to need to show that he can mix with the best players in the biggest tournaments. That’s a concern because, prior to this weekend when he took out ninth-ranked Fabio Fognini, Zverev had never got beyond the fourth round at a major. So with that milestone out of the way, he now faces another one – can he defeat a higher-ranked player at the business end of a Grand Slam event?
The omens aren’t great. While Djokovic has had to play twelve sets to get to this point, Zverev had burned through thirteen by the end of his third round meeting with Dušan Lajović. Another four to get past Fognini means that the underdog here has played the equivalent of a full five-set match more than his opponent so far in the tournament. Add to this the fact that he blew a two-set lead against Lajović before seeing the match out, and it doesn’t instil confidence for his chances here. Djokovic is a master at exposing weakness, and is ⅚ with Betfred to win this match in straight sets. Zverev has a big job on his hands to even be competitive today.
Tired Zverev needs to strike early
The received wisdom that youth is an asset in modern tennis has taken something of a battering in recent times. The world’s top three players are 32, 33 and 37 in that order; what they might theoretically lack in stamina, they definitely make up in tactical acumen and game management. As a tournament reaches its end stages, it’s easy to think that players with a few more years in their legs might feel the ravages a bit more, but if anything the opposite is true. Djokovic has been around the block so many times, there isn’t a match situation he hasn’t faced. If Zverev has any ideas of outlasting his opponent here, he’d be wise to lose them immediately.
If the underdog is to have any chance of progress here, he needs to hit his opponent hard, early and repeatedly. Remember, Djokovic has played five sets fewer than the younger player so far in this tournament. He can afford a long match far more than Zverev can – so the German player needs to utilise his bigger serve to keep points and service games short. Paddy Power have odds of 10/11 on the underdog to hit more than 10.5 aces in this contest, and even if this match is over quickly, there is every chance he’ll land at least eleven.
Straightforward win for the top seed
At some stage, Zverev will likely make the breakthrough and win a Grand Slam tournament. After all, he won the ATP World Tour final in 2018 – beating Djokovic in the final to achieve that goal. His time will come, and at the age of 22 there is plenty of time for that to happen. It’s easy to forget that Djokovic didn’t win the French Open, and complete his career Grand Slam, until he was 29. With all of that said, it’s just hard to back the German in this match. The favourite here has marched serenely through the tournament so far and has all the momentum coming into this contest, and Zverev may need to see his outing as a learning experience.
This is unlikely to be a particularly close match – every indicator points to the more experienced player continuing his procession to at least the semi-final stage. With 888 you can bet on how many games it will take for the match to be concluded. Their chosen Over/Under is 34.5, but you can drop that to 30.5 and take the under at 31/20. If Djokovic wins in straight sets without being taken to a tiebreak – as he has throughout the tournament so far – that will be a winning bet, and it’s a very appealing price.
Bets of the Day
BetfredDjokovic to win 3-0 (⅚, Betfred); Fewer than 30.5 games (31/20, 888); Zverev more than 10.5 aces (Paddy Power, 10/11)