Brain Game

How Zverev served up something special in Rome final

Brain Game analyses how German's delivery dominated championship match
May 19, 2024
Alexander Zverev downs Nicolas Jarry in the final at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
Dan Istitene/Getty Images
Alexander Zverev downs Nicolas Jarry in the final at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. By Craig O'Shannessy

Ace, ace, ace.

The first three points were untouchable thunderbolts from Alexander Zverev that laid the foundation for his stunning 6-4, 7-5 victory over Nicolas Jarry in the final of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Sunday in Rome.

Zverev had the best serving day of his illustrious career, losing only five service points for the match. He won 37/39 on first serve and 7/10 on second serve. He only double-faulted once and dropped six aces in 11 service games.

When Jarry won the toss and elected to receive, he would have been hoping for an early break. Instead, the Chilean never sniffed a break point for the entire match while being forced to defend nine on his serve, saving seven.

In the past year, Zverev has emerged as the best server on Tour, leading all players with a 293.5 rating on the Infosys ATP Stats Serve Leaderboard. He has the highest percentage of first serves made at 72.2 per cent, and blew that number out of the water in the final against Jarry, making 80 per cent (39/49). In the opening set, Zverev made a jaw-dropping 90 per cent (19/21) of his first serves and won every single one. He only had to hit two second serves in the opening set, winning one.

In Zverev’s second service game, Jarry put three first serves back in play, but couldn’t win a point. Zverev made his first nine first serves in a row to begin the match and won four of his service games to love in the opening set.

Zverev went on a tear at the end of the first set and the start of the second, winning 12 out of 13 points to further stamp his dominance in the match. He won his opening service game of the second set to love, ramping up the pressure on Jarry not to slip up in his own service games.

Zverev won a staggering 31 straight points on his first serve to 6-4, 4-4, 15/0, when Jarry finally snagged one, hitting a short-angled forehand winner off a drop shot.

Jarry shared key insights after the match into what makes Zverev’s serve so special. “I think his percentage of first serve was pretty high,” Jarry said. “I don't know how much it was, but I felt that I didn't have enough chances. His service, apart from being very good, is very different from all the other serves. He takes the ball very high, so the bounce is very special. It took me time to get the trajectory of it.”

Another factor in Zverev's dominance on his first serve was his ability to mix locations in the service box to keep Jarry guessing where the next bomb was landing.

In the Deuce court, Zverev made 11 serves out wide, one at the body and nine down the T. He didn’t drop a first serve point in the Deuce court. In the Ad court, he made eight down the T (won all of them) and won eight of 10 out wide in the Ad court.

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It’s interesting to note that when you examine serve speed, you see very little difference in performance between the two players:

  • Fastest 1st Serve: Zverev 140 mph/Jarry 139 mph
  • Average 1st Serve: Zverev 131 mph/Jarry 129 mph
  • Average 2nd Serve: Zverev 107 mph/Jarry 107 mph

When Jarry got a return back in the court, Zverev hit 13 Serve +1 forehands, winning 11 of those points, and 11 Serve +1 backhands, winning 10. By comparison, Jarry had to deal with 41 Serve +1 forehands (won 24) and 11 Serve +1 backhands, winning five.

Zverev’s first serve overwhelmed Jarry with the volume he had to contend with and the sharp angle it careened off the court. Add the clever directional mix that Zverev employed, and it ended up being a perfect serve storm for the German, who now ascends to World No. 4 in the PIF ATP Rankings on Monday.

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