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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, October 24, 2020

Alexander Zverev

In a match of jolting strikes—and some trash talk—Alexander Zverev fought off Jannik Sinner 7-6(3), 6-3 to reach his second straight Cologne final.

Photo credit:Bett1HULKS Facebook

The rematch briefly turned grudge match—then Alexander Zverev delivered the final word.

A blockbuster Cologne semifinal sparked fireworks as Zverev fought back from a 1-4 deficit fending off Jannik Sinner 7-6(3), 6-3 to reach his second straight Cologne final.

Watch: Irate Khachanov Freaks Out 

It is Zverev’s seventh straight win and sends him into his 21st career final.

A week after Zverev swept Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3 to claim the Cologne-1 championship, he will face  second-seeded Diego Schwartzman in the Cologne-2 final playing for his 13th career title. Roland Garros semifinalist Schwartzman converted four of five beak points beating Auger Aliassime 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in today's second semifinal.

The 23-year-old Zverev’s rematch with Sinner popped with running rallies and a verbal clash.

Twenty days ago, the 19-year-old Italian weathered windy, clammy conditions and the lanky German’s defense upsetting Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to make history as the first man to reach the quarterfinals of his Roland Garros debut since Rafael Nadal in 2005.

In the aftermath, Zverev raised eyebrows admitting he was sick with a fever, had trouble breathing and “shouldn’t have played.”

Was the 23-year-old German sharing candor or saving face?

Zverev brought the fire in a match of heavy hitting, tense tests, a face-to-face net exchange and trash talk in the seventh game of the second set.

Annoyed by Zverev’s habit of walking forward to look for ball marks in a challenge to the tournament’s automatic Hawk-Eye line-calling system, Sinner voiced his displeasure with one delay.

“Relax, relax I’m not even talking to you,” Zverev told Sinner.

“Yeah every time—it’s not near it,” Sinner said in reference to the German casting challenging looks at line calls.

On this day, Zverev had the last word.

The top seed thumped successive aces holding for 5-2 then backed up the exclamation points jawing at Sinner on the ensuing changeover.

“F—k that, yeah,” Zverev seemed to say as the pair changed sides.

Spiking tennis between two young talents isn’t even the primary reason this will be an intriguing rivalry to watch unfold over the next decade. Both of these two have the talent, drive and all-court skills to challenge for Grand Slam titles—and if their future clashes are anything like this one they will be a blast to watch.

Sinner’s shot tolerance and creativity were on display in the third game when he ran down a Zverev drop shot on the full sprint forward lobbing the 6’6” German ending a 27-shot rally with a snazzy rainbow lob to hold for 2-1.

Backing the US Open finalist up with the depth of his drives, Sinner pulled the string on a backhand drop shot that dripped over net to confirm the break for 4-1.

Stepping in closer to the baseline, Zverev used a forehand volley and his opponent’s first double fault for triple break point. The top seed broke back at love in the seventh game. Slashing his first ace down the T, Zverev evened it after eight games with a shout.

As Zverev lifted his level, Sinner lost his edge missing a forehand to face a second straight love-40 hole. The forehand let the Italian down on key points at times today.

Feeling the jitters, Sinner double-faulted away a second straight break as Zverev claimed his fourth straight game for 5-4.

Serving for the set, Zverev tightened falling into a love-30 hole. Spreading the court beautifully, Sinner singed the sideline with a forehand. Zverev thought the ball was wide, but automatic Hawk-Eye line-calling technology that showed the shot caught the line. Zverev dropped serve and slammed his Head racquet to the court still stewing over the prior call.

Shrugging it off, Zverev exploited a double fault breaking for the third straight time to edge ahead, 6-5.

Serving for the set a second time, Zverev decelerated on serve slapping a second double fault to face break point at 30-40 then sprayed a backhand to gift the break and force the breaker after 51 tense minutes.

Though Zverev typically hits flatter he played with pace and margin in the tie breaker. The German ripped a forehand for 3-1 then stuck a fine low backhand volley winner for 4-2.

Showing no signs of the left hip strain he suffered in his quarterfinal win over Adrian Mannarino, Zverev was running with desire. Back-pedaling near the baseline, Zverev flicked back a defensive dig and Sinner missed a diagonal forehand as the US Open finalist snatched the one-hour opener with a shout.

The future rivals came face-to-face in a rapid fire net exchange. Sinner reflexed back a couple of volleys before Zverev spun a forehand pass gaining break point with a bang.

Tennis Express

Sinner had his opponent on the run, but the lanky Zverev forced him to play a low volley and the Italian netted it. Zverev scored his fourth straight break for a 2-0 second-set lead.

A relaxed Zverev zapped his fourth ace out wide sealing a love hold for 4-1. The verbal fireworks erupted in that seventh game with Zverev exploding for successive aces holding for 5-2.

Serving for his 21st career final, Zverev finished with a flurry of heavy drives and a respectful racquet tap to his sometime practice partner. Neither showed lingering acrimony at net and both played dynamic tennis in what may well be a fascinating future rivalry.


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