Zverev, Bublik Cruise Into Montpellier Title Match

Alexander Zverev (photo: Open Sud de France / @JBAUTISSIER)

MONTPELLIER/WASHINGTON, February 5, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

All week long, top seed Alexander Zverev has stressed how he views the Open Sud de France as a perfect fit for him in preparing for the upcoming Spring Swing tournaments in North America.

On Sunday, the World No. 3 from Germany will go after his second Open Sud de France singles crown in Montpellier and 20th ATP singles title overall when he faces challenger and longtime friend Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan.

Saturday afternoon, Zverev won his 10th lifetime match in the southern French city near the Mediterranean coast as he cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 semifinal victory over 83rd-ranked Mikael Ymer of Sweden, in under an hour. By controlling the match from start to finish, Zverev ended the outstanding run this week by Ymer, in which he reached his first tour-level semifinal.

“I am in the final and I am happy about that,” Zverev said during an on-court interview following his 53-minute victory. “I played a pretty good match, I think I played one bad game in the whole match.”

From the outset, Zverev jumped out to a double-break 4-0 lead before Ymer finally held serve in his third service game. However, Zverev remained relentless and closed out the 24-minute opening with few worries. He faced no break points during his three service games.

Then, in a carbon copy of the first set, Zverev gained another double-break lead over Ymer and continued to apply pressure against the 23-year-old Swede during both his service and return games to gain a 4-0 advantage. It seemed that no matter Ymer tried to do – and he was able to accomplish very little during his own service games, winning just 49 percent of his service points – Zverev was determined to win.

Although, Zverev finally surrendered his serve in the fifth game of the second set, it was very much too little too late for Ymer to turn around the match. While he consolidated the break, Zverev responded with a love hold to move within a game of winning. Soon after, he wrapped up the semifinal with another hold at love to garner the victory.

Zverev has lost just 13 games through his three Montpellier victories. Against Ymer, he fired six aces, won 77 percent (23 of 30) of his first-serve points, and converted all five of his break-point opportunities. Zverev outpointed Ymer 51-30.

“Overall, I am happy to be in another final, playing against Alex who I have known since I was 12 years old. So, hopefully, it will be a fun match,” Zverev said. The two competitors have met once on Tour, a year ago at Rotterdam that was won by Bublik 7-5, 6-3.

Meanwhile, in the opening semifinal, the No. 6 seed Bublik continued pursuit of his first ATP tour-level title with a superb performance. The popular and entertaining World No. 35, who garnered a personal-best 35 wins last year, defeated Serbia’s fifth-seeded Filip Krajinovic, 6-4, 6-2, in his eighth tour-level semifinal. The 63-minute semifinal result left Bublik feeling happy and he beamed a big smile toward the appreciative crowd after securing match point. It was his fifth win in his seventh match of the 2022 season.

“I’m happy with my performance today,” Bublik said during an on-court interview after his first head-to-head meeting against the 36th-ranked Krajinkovic. “I think I played solid and kept my nerves at the right moment. I served well and didn’t give [Filip] any free points. I played a pretty good match from my end.”

Bublik won the 34-minute opening set after dropping just one point on his serve while taking advantage of a break of his opponent’s serve in the seventh game. Then, he broke on his second opportunity in the fifth game of the second set to go ahead 3-2, consolidated the break, and promptly broke Krajinovic, again, to take a commanding 5-2 lead. With a berth in the final on his racquet, Bublik closed out the victory with a love hold that included a couple of solid aces.

The 24-year-old Bublik finished with 13 aces, won 94 percent (29 of 31) of his first serve points, converted three of 11 break points and did not face any break points. He outpointed Krajinovic, who was appearing in his second Montpellier semifinal, 61 to 39.

Top seeds Herbert and Mahut reach doubles final

Playing together for the first time this season, top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, both of France, advanced to Sunday’s doubles final with a 5-7, 7-5, 10-8 victory over No. 3 seeds Jonathan Erlich of Israel and Edouard-Roger Vasselin of France.

The French team, who have won 20 tour-level titles – including Five Grand Slams and two Nitto ATP Finals – will play Harri Heliovaara of Finland and Lloyd Glasspool of Great Britain in the title match.

By the numbers

Alexander Zverev has won his last seven matches at Montpellier dating back to his 2017 title run. His victory over Mikael Ymer was his third in three career head-to-head meetings and it advanced him to his 28th ATP Tour final as he seeks his 20th career title.

Mikael Ymer (Montpellier) and his older brother Elias (Pune) are the first brothers to reach the semifinal round in the same week on the ATP Tour since Alexander Zverev (‘s-Hertogenbosch) and his older brother Mischa (Stuttgart) achieved the same feed in June 2017.

Alexander Bublik has served a total of 70 aces in his four victories this week in Montpellier, including 20 against Tallon Griekspoor and 26 against Roberto Bautista Agut.

“Quotable …”

“When they are for me – when they are cheering for me – it’s good. When they are cheering against me, I’m not very happy. It’s part of the game. Having them on my side is a big boost.”

Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan on the importance of having crowd support