UTS2 Day 3: Zverev’s sizzling groundstrokes sends him to semis

UTS2 Group play has concluded and the final four is set to go for tomorrow’s final day. Here’s a recap of Day 3’s matches, final standings, and semifinals preview.

Match #1: Grigor (Grigor Dimitrov) def. The Musketeer (Nicolas Mahut) 3-1

As predicted, Mahut had a tough time adjusting to the new UTS rules. Although he put together four tight quarters, including a second-quarter win, he simply couldn’t finish the job. Dimitrov only outscored the Frenchman by 4 total points but had enough in the tank to secure his first-ever UTS victory.

Mahut’s entry into the tournament came when Alexei Popyrin graciously subbed himself out in favor of Mahut in order for him to have a chance to compete in the event for the day. None of the three players mentioned will be participating in tomorrow’s semifinals.

Match #2: The Tornado (Corentin Moutet) def. The Rebel (Benoit Paire) 4-0 walkover

Benoit Paire caught the injury bug at the worst possible time against Corentin Moutet. After narrowly losing the first two quarters (18-15, 18-11), Paire began to have undisclosed injury problems in the following quarter; it became bad enough that he walked off the court and forfeited the match with 2:10 to go in the quarter. This gave Moutet the 4-0 victory and a place in the final four.

Unfortunately, Moutet’s walkover win took out Dustin Brown’s chances of reaching the semifinals, even if he defeats Fernando Verdasco in his final group match. Moutet’s big win boosted him up from the worst position of the four to a clinching top-four finish. He’ll await the winner of Alexander Zverev and Felix Auger-Aliassime to find out his opponent for tomorrow.

Match #3: El Fuego (Fernando Verdasco) def. The Artist (Dustin Brown) 3-1

After Moutet’s bagel win, Verdasco needed the same result to advance into the final four. His chances faded quickly as he fell behind 0-2. He pulled a “Tsitsipas” and tied the match up at two quarters apiece as his offense became more efficient. He carried that momentum in sudden death and took the first two points to win.

Verdasco’s run came to an end today but he proved to be one of the UTS’ best, especially today. It was easily his best offensive showing (he put up quarter totals of 16, 13, 20, and 17). Unfortunately, Brown had one of his best showings as well and piled on the points in the first two quarters (19 and 20). If there happens to be a third UTS event coming soon, Verdasco will definitely be considered as a returning player.

Brown had a great week despite going 1-2. In three matches, he finished with a 6-7 quarter record and a +3 point differential, meaning he was a few points away from going 2-1 and possibly 2-0. His beautiful touch around the net was much more effective for this go-around but still wasn’t enough to compete with the firepower of his opponents. He’ll likely not play in another UTS event for the time being but has a ton to be proud of.

Match #4: The Virtuoso (Richard Gasquet) def. El Torero (Feliciano Lopez) 3-1

Richard Gasquet has absolutely dominated the UTS field and increases his massive lead over the rest of the projected semifinalists. He’s the only undefeated player in the event and has only lost two quarters in three matches, one of them coming today after he’d already clinched the 3-0 win. Lopez was playing very well last weekend but unfortunately ran into the buzzsaw today that knocked him out of contention.

Gasquet finishes group play with a point differential of +46, which is 10 points higher than the inflated +36 of Moutet (due to his walkover). Dustin Brown is the only other player with a positive point differential (+3) but it isn’t anywhere close to the dominating score that Gasquet has put together these last two weeks. Moutet finished last weekend with a -9 differential and would’ve gained 16 points if his match score with Paire was factored in (18-15, 18-11, 14-8). This goes to show how incredibly dominant Gasquet has been these last few weeks of play.

He’s going to be the best player in the now-confirmed semifinals beginning tomorrow. He’s easily the favorite to win; his only tough opponent might be Alexander Zverev but even he might not be enough to stop the towering Gasquet at the top.

Match #5 (The Lion) Alexander Zverev def. The Panther (Felix Auger-Aliassime) 3-2

This was an incredible debut for both players. Zverev got off to a hot start, taking the first two quarters 11-10 and 15-14. In the first quarter, The German fought from 10-8 down with only a few seconds to go and took it on a deciding point. He then faced a 14-10 lead before Auger-Aliassime fought back to force yet another decisive point, which Zverev also won.

In the third quarter, Aliassime avoided a third consecutive deciding point, instead winning the quarter’s final point after Zverev fell down on the baseline with no time left. The final quarter showed incredible fight from the young star; he stuttered to an 0-8 deficit before winning the next 10 points to take the lead. He closed off on a 14-1 point run to win the 4th, 14-11.

Zverev was ultimately the winner, saving a match point in sudden death before fighting to win it after Aliassime’s groundstroke went wide on the fourth point.

Final Group Standings

Group A

  1. Richard Gasquet (3-0, 10-2, +36)
  2. Feliciano Lopez (2-1, 7-6, -2)
  3. Grigor Dimitrov (1-2, 5-8, -23)
  4. Nicolas Mahut (0-1, 1-3, -4)
  5. Alexei Popyrin (0-3, 2-6, -17)

Group B

  1. Coretin Moutet (2-1, 8-5*, +36*)
  2. Fernando Verdasco (2-1, 7-6, -2)
  3. Dustin Brown (1-2, 6-7, +3)
  4. Benoit Paire (1-2, 4-7*, -37*)

Final Four participants and matchups

The UTS switched up the protocol for reaching the semifinals. Instead of having the top two players from each group reach the final four, only the best player from Group A and B will reach the semifinals. The last two spots will be taken up by Alexander Zverev and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The seeding was determined based on the winner of the Zverev/Auger-Aliassime match that took place. Zverev won the match and had the advantage of picking his semifinal opponent, which ended up being Corentin Moutet. The two players he didn’t choose (Gasquet and Aliassime) will face each other in the semis. The winners of both matches will face off in the finals for the UTS2 title.

Semifinal #1: The Lion (Alexander Zverev) vs The Tornado (Corentin Moutet)

Semifinal #2: The Virtuoso (Richard Gasquet) vs The Panther (Felix Auger-Aliassime)

The Men’s Final Four begins tomorrow, August 2nd.