Zverev Overcomes Serving Woes To Close Out Felix

Defending Madrid champ to face Tsitsipas in Saturday's semi-finals

Alexander Zverev's dominant ground game propelled him into the semi-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open as he battled through eight second-set double faults to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-3, 7-5.

"I think this was maybe the best match of the last few months from my side, except maybe the end a little bit," Zverev assessed. "Throughout one-and-a-half sets I played good tennis and I hope I can continue playing this way."

The German defending champion was on course for a routine victory on Friday at the ATP Masters 1000 event, up a set and break with four chances to make it a double break in the second, but a late wobble gave Auger-Aliassime a lifeline to extend the match. After Zverev missed out on that quartet of break chances at 4-1, the Canadian secured his first break of the match on the way to levelling the set.

But the second seed reasserted himself late, creating two match points on the return at 4-5 before closing out the contest with his fourth break of the match to avoid a tie-break.

"I couldn't put a serve in the court," Zverev said, explaining why the match tightened up late on. "I had chances to go up 5-1 in the second set and I think the match would have been over. But I didn't use my chances and he fought back well. But I kept fighting as well, and that's how I got the win."

The German was at his imperious best from the baseline throughout, gaining the advantage early and often in the rallies and frequently closing points out at the net. He broke early and late in both sets, though the two stanzas took on an entirely different complexion with Zverev's late struggles on serve.

Despite nine double faults in the match, Zverev still won 14 of 25 second-serve points (56 per cent), far outpacing Auger-Aliassime's 13 of 34 (38 per cent). Zverev's dominance extended to first serve as well, where he won 74 per cent of points to his opponent's 65 per cent.

After improving to 5-2 in his ATP Head2Head against the Canadian and gaining a measure of revenge from an ATP Cup loss in January, Zverev will now look to avenge a Monte Carlo semi-final loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the next round. The Greek leads that matchup 7-3, including a 3-0 mark on clay.

"Rafa is on his way back and Novak is starting to gain momentum, but right now maybe he's the best clay-court player in the world," Zverev said of Tsitsipas. "I think I need to play my best level to have a chance, but I'm looking forward to this match because in Monte Carlo he beat me quite easily. I hope I can change that." 

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