ATP World Tour Finals round-robin preview: Alexander Zverev vs Marin Cilic

Zverev and Cilic will headline the evening session at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals on the opening day with both players looking to grab a confidence-boosting start in London.

ATP World Tour Finals round-robin preview: Alexander Zverev vs Marin Cilic
Zverev and Cilic will battle for the win on Sunday night | Photos: Getty Images, Graphics: Don Han

The matches in the Boris Becker group will kick off the opening day of competition at the 2017 Nitto ATP World Tour Finals, and the evening session will be headlined by the battle between Alexander Zverev and Marin Cilic. This match between the third and the fifth seed will begin not before 8 pm local time on Sunday, and both players aim to get the perfect start to their London campaign.

This round-robin format could take some time for Cilic and Zverev to adapt to, most particularly the German youngster. The Croatian has qualified for the Finals twice before this year, while Zverev will make his debut in London.

This format allows the player to rebound from their losses and still have the opportunity to progress deep in the tournament, which means that even losing a match could still allow a player to win the title ultimately. Therefore, the mentality of the player must be strong enough to get over a loss quickly, knowing that he still owns opportunities in the tournament.

Alexander Zverev in action during the NextGen ATP Finals, where he played an exhibition match despite withdrawing from the competition | Photo: Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images Europe
Alexander Zverev in action during the NextGen ATP Finals, where he played an exhibition match despite withdrawing from the competition | Photo: Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images Europe

Notable results leading up to London: Zverev

The German has been in relatively poor form after claiming the title in Montreal. He surprisingly fell in the second round at the US Open, losing to Borna Coric in a 3.5-hour thriller. An early exit at the Shenzhen Open followed before Zverev produced an encouraging run to the last four in Beijing. His recent results clearly reflect the youngster’s struggles as all of his last seven losses came against lower-ranked players. He also made just one semifinal appearance throughout the Asian Swing and European Indoor Swing.

Notable results leading up to London: Cilic

Taking a lengthy break after reaching the Wimbledon final, Cilic disappointingly exited in the third round of the US Open to Diego Schwartzman before posting some consistent results through the remainder of the year. He reached the semifinals in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Basel and amassed a fair 11-4 win-loss record after falling early at Flushing Meadows which allowed him to keep his place inside the top-five in the rankings. His last tournament before coming to London was the Paris Masters, losing to Julien Benneteau in a quarterfinal clash which lasted for more than two hours. Cilic has a 1-5 win-loss record at the Finals.

Marin Cilic in action during a practice session at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Marin Cilic in action during a practice session at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Head-to-Head

The pair first met at the Citi Open in 2015 with Cilic triumphing in straight sets on that occasion. However, their next meeting saw an upset being played out as Zverev ousted the Croatian in two tiebreak sets in Montpellier, a tournament which saw the German reach the semifinals and also marked the start of his rise to the top of the rankings. Zverev also triumphed in their clashes in Shanghai and Rome, recovering from a set down to triumph in both matches.

Match Analysis: A hard-hitting match expected

Both players utilize an aggressive baseline game and the backhand is the highlight of Zverev’s game while Cilic’s forehand is extremely powerful. Just like most male players, the Croatian and German also possess big serves which could often earn them free points during crucial moments. They play a similar style of tennis, and therefore this means that consistency would definitely come into play.

Alexander Zverev in action during a practice session at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Alexander Zverev in action during a practice session at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Both Zverev and Cilic, most particularly the younger of the two, must step up to the occasion and should not let their emotions or frustration overwhelm them during moments when things are going against them. Every player would definitely have their off-day and could be error-prone which is relatable to hard-hitting players like Zverev and Cilic. The errors are not the most crucial, but rather how they handle their mentality and thoughts during the match itself. The experience of the players could prove pivotal here, but Zverev might just sneak through his first-ever match at the World Tour Finals.

Match Prediction: Alexander Zverev d. Marin Cilic in three sets