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Preview: Alejandro Tabilo vs. Alexander Zverev - prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Friday's Italian Open semi-final between Alejandro Tabilo and Alexander Zverev, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.

Both yet to drop a single set at the Italian Open, high-flying Alejandro Tabilo and Alexander Zverev cross paths for the first time in Friday's intriguing semi-final.

The 29th seed battled his way past China's Zhang Zhizhen to progress to the last four, while his German foe eliminated Taylor Fritz from the quarter-final stage.


Match preview

Alejandro Tabilo reacts at the Italian Open in May 2024© Reuters

The 2024 season has been one of meteoric progression for Chilean trailblazer Tabilo, as whatever transpires on the Roman clay on Friday, he will depart the Italian Open with a sensational victory over Novak Djokovic to his name.

The world number one is one of four players to fall to Tabilo's straight-sets superiority in Rome, as the 29th seed has also got the better of Yannick Hanfmann, Karen Khachanov and - most recently - Zhizhen, progressing 6-3 6-4 from their quarter-final after one hour and 26 minutes.

Showcasing delicate drop shots, a good old serve and volley and ferocious returns - particularly on Zhizhen's second serve - the in-form Tabilo struck seven aces and beat away both of the break points that his Chinese opponent managed to fashion, while also striking 28 winners compared to just eight unforced errors.

Consequently, the 26-year-old is set to rise into the top 25 of the ATP Rankings and is now gearing up for his first-ever Masters semi-final - his previous best at ATP 1000 level was a fourth-round exit at Indian Wells last year - and not since Fernando Gonzalez at the 2009 Italian Open has a Chilean man made it to the last four of a Masters competition.

Tabilo already has one top-level honour under his belt this year - defeating Taro Daniel in January's Auckland Open final for his first ATP Tour crown - and his two other finals, the 2022 Cordoba Open and 2024 Chile Open, have both been fought on clay.

German tennis player Alexander Zverev on January 20, 2024© Reuters

The South American came up short in both of those contests, though, and another stern test of his Masters credentials now awaits against Zverev, who had sent Aleksandar Vukic, Luciano Darderi and Nuno Borges packing before pitting his wits against a more esteemed foe in Fritz.

However, the highest-ranked seed left in the tournament enhanced his Rome credentials with a 6-4 6-3 success in one hour and 30 minutes, and with all of Djokovic, Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz and defending champion Daniil Medvedev nowhere to be seen, anticipation is rising that the German could finally snap his barren Masters sequence.

The 2020 US Open runner-up already has five ATP 1000 titles to his name, but his most recent success on Masters territory came all the way back in 2021 at the Cincinnati Open, and he has since lost four of his last five semi-final ties at this level, including in this year's Miami Open.

Consistency has been challenging for Zverev to come by ever since his excruciating ankle injury at the 2022 French Open, but a standout performance against Fritz saw him land 77% of his first serves, commit a mere four unforced errors and deny the American a single break point opportunity.

Not even an alarming fall in the third game of the match - which left Zverev with a pair of bloodied hands - could halt the 27-year-old's progression to the semis, and one of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Tommy Paul, Nicolas Jarry or Hubert Hurkacz shall await the victor with the championship on the line.


Tournament so far

Alejandro Tabilo:

First round: Bye
Second round: vs. Yannick Hanfmann 6-3 7-6[4]
Third round: vs. Novak Djokovic 6-2 6-3
Round of 16: vs. Karen Khachanov 7-6[5] 7-6[10]
Quarter-final: vs. Zhang Zhizhen 6-3 6-4

Alexander Zverev:

First round: Bye
Second round: vs. Aleksandar Vukic 6-0 6-4
Third round: vs. Luciano Darderi 7-6[3] 6-2
Round of 16: vs. Nuno Borges 6-2 7-5
Quarter-final: vs. Taylor Fritz 6-4 6-3


Head To Head

Friday's Centre Court contest will mark the first time that Tabilo and Zverev have locked horns on the ATP Tour, in a match that will see Zverev's right-handed game combat Tabilo's left-handed style.

While the Chilean is not physically underwhelming at 6ft 2in tall, he is dwarfed by the 6ft 6in Zverev, who has also played a staggering 525 more matches on the ATP Tour with 602 compared to Tabilo's 77.

Furthermore, with 22 wins from 31 contests in 2024 so far, Zverev's success rate of 71% is marginally better than Tabilo's, who boasts 15 victories from 24 matches for a win percentage of 63%.


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We say: Zverev to win in two sets

As remarkable as Tabilo's efforts have been in Rome, the 29th seed now faces a foe who has been virtually unflappable on serve throughout the entire tournament, as Zverev has not been broken once in his opening four matches.

Some fascinating net exchanges ought to materialise in Friday's battle too, but even with bandaged hands, the German third seed and 2017 champion gets our vote to march onto the weekend's final.

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