Kyrgios and “Sascha” Zverev are two of the game’s most prolific talents and have notched impressive victories over the sport’s greats on some of the biggest stages in their burgeoning careers. Kyrgios burst onto the scene in 2014 in a stunning Wimbledon upset over Rafael Nadal, while Zverev announced his arrival in 2017, becoming the youngest players to win multiple ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in one season since Novak Djokovic 10 years prior.
The two have clashed five times in their careers, with Kyrgios holding a slight edge in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, 3-2. The rivalry garners interest not solely due to each player’s respective accolades at such young ages, but also due to the stark contrast in their styles of play.
Although both are natural showmen, their technical and tactical approaches couldn’t be more varied. While Zverev prefers to hug the baseline and dictate with vicious angled backhands to open the court for winners, Kyrgios employs unpredictable changes of pace, spin and direction – in addition to the odd trick shot – to keep his opponents off balance. So when the two have had the chance to stare each other down at opposite sides of the net, the resulting clash has often possessed the same kind of dynamism and thrill that has characterised the game’s great rivalries of the past.
ATPWorldTour.com looks at their five previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings…
2018 Davis Cup World Group First Round, Brisbane, Hard, Zverev d. Kyrgios 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-2
Having both made earlier exits at the Australian Open than anticipated, Kyrgios and Zverev headed into an eagerly anticipated opening-round tie in the Davis Cup World Group. The Australia-Germany tie was played in Brisbane on the very court that Kyrgios had won an ATP World Tour title less than a month prior.
One wouldn’t have thought that Zverev, two days prior, had played an epic fifth-set tie-break victory over #NextGenATP Alex de Minaur, as he was firing out of the gates, breaking the normally lethal Kyrgios serve twice in the opening set for the most lop-sided set win of the rivalry. The home favourite would find another gear in the second set, but Zverev would match it, saving all four break points he faced, including two set points before sealing the second set in a tie-break on the first set point of his own.
The third set was largely a formality, as Kyrgios struggled with an apparent elbow injury – one that would eventually keep him out of the game for over a month to recover from – while Zverev sealed victory with same confident tennis that saw him triumph against his rival in August 2017 at Montreal.
2017 China Open Semi-final, Beijing, Hard, Kyrgios d. Zverev 6-3, 7-5
In their final meeting of 2017 at the ATP World Tour 500 event in China, Kyrgios would earn revenge for his straight-sets defeat a few months prior in Montreal. The match, as it was in each of their previous meetings, was decided by a single break of serve in each set; and this time the Canberra native was the one able to make the crucial breakthrough on his return games.
On the quick-paced Diamond Court, in front of a capacity crowd of nearly 15,000 eager fans, the young rivals produced captivating tennis, with Kyrgios’ serve firing on all cylinders and Zverev looking for as many cross-court backhands as possible. The opening game of the second set was particularly electric, with Kyrgios attacking the net and dispatching a miracle passing shot to generate break points on the German’s serve. Although the Australian would fail to convert the first of his break opportunities, Kyrgios was able to grab the advantage at the last possible moment on a Zverev double fault.
One game – and one broken racquet – later, the match was over. Kyrgios would fall to Nadal in the final, but ultimately nudged ahead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head with Zverev as a result of the semi-final victory.
2017 Rogers Cup Third Round, Montreal, Hard, Zverev d. Kyrgios 6-4, 6-3
Zverev, now 20 years old and with an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title under his belt, walked onto the Centre Court of Uniprix Stadium with swagger he hadn’t possessed in his previous matches with Kyrgios and it showed in his play.
Now ranked higher than his Australian rival, Zverev played like the number next to his name, and he completely reversed the script. In their first two encounters, the German was unable to break the Kyrgios serve. This time around, it was he who was dominant behind the first shot, not once relinquishing a break to a frustrated Kyrgios.
Zverev Streaks Past Kyrgios, Into QFs
The match would end up being just one minute shorter than the first in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, and Zverev would go on to claim his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 later in the week, defeating Roger Federer in the final.
2017 Miami Open presented by Itau Quarter-final, Hard, Kyrgios d. Zverev 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3
Fans wouldn’t need to wait long for a re-match of Kyrgios and Zverev’s first career meeting. The two met in the quarter-finals of the Miami Open and both navigated through tricky draws – surviving third-set tiebreakers along the way – to eventually set up a primetime showdown under the lights at Crandon Park.
The first set, for the most part, followed a similar script to their encounter in Indian Wells: Kyrgios was dominant on serve, produced crowd-rousing hot shots, and broke at the last moment to earn the set in 42 minutes. Zverev, however, would stop the redux there, contesting a titanic second set and saving three match points in the tie-break with a couple stunning shots of his own to eventually claim it 11/9. However, the Aussie was ultimately able to wrestle the momentum back in his favour, claiming victory on his sixth match point on a blistering service winner.
Despite being disappointed by the result, the German wunderkind was encouraged by his performance compared to their match just weeks prior. “I’m a competitor. That’s my job. I will always leave everything out there, like I did today.”
Zverev also acknowledged the friendship he holds with Kyrgios off court, respecting their companionship but not at the cost of competition.
“Sometimes you come up short. It’s not difficult. I think any competitor in this world will find a way to separate friendship from competitive nature I think.”
2017 BNP Paribas Open Third Round, Indian Wells, Hard, Kyrgios d. Zverev 6-3, 6-4
Kyrgios and Zverev played for the first time at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden at the start of 2017, in what would be the first of four meetings that season. In a nightmare quarter of the draw that included Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro, this first-time matchup between the ATP World Tour’s brightest rising stars still managed to steal the headlines.
On a warm afternoon in near-perfect conditions, the Australian’s extra years of experience were on display early, breaking the Zverev serve in the third game of the match. In what a disappointed Zverev would ultimately describe as “the worst match I played all year,” Kyrgios wouldn’t let the 19-year-old German into the match, blasting ace after ace and not once facing danger on his serve. Zverev kept the match close in the second, but Kyrgios, courtesy of a few highlight reel shots, eventually sealed victory on a break of serve after one hour, 14 minutes.
“He’s young and will have a great career, and we will play each other many more times,” said Kyrgios in press after the mach. “So I’m well aware of that, but I don’t go into that match thinking, ‘I must win this.’ I don’t add stupid pressure on myself. I’m only human. If I make a mistake, I make a mistake.
“I was well aware this was a big match, but no real added pressure.”