US Open ATP Semifinals Preview: De Facto Final and Four First-Timers

The 2020 ATP US Open semifinals will feature four players who ll have yet to win a major (the first time in Grand Slam since 2004). Here’s a full preview.

The ATP’s first Grand Slam after the shutdown has narrowed its field down to just four competitors, none of whom have won a Grand Slam in their careers. It’s the first time in 6 years since there’s been a first-time Grand Slam winner (last coming at the 2014 US Open Final, where Marin Cilic defeated Kei Nishikori) but will also the be the first semifinal to feature four major-less players since Roland Garros in 2004.

It’s been purely speculative when the “NextGen” group will finally take home a major championship and start to gain momentum on their way to overtaking the Big 3. Dominic Thiem has been the most successful of the bunch; he reached three major finals, beginning first at Roland Garros in 2018 and most recently in Australia this past January. Daniil Medvedev is the only other player to reach a major final (it came last year at the US Open).

Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic have to end their careers at some point in time and the next group up will need to be able to step up and win. The power at the top of the tour will begin to shift and this week might be the start of it.

With that said, two semifinal matches here at the US Open are set to take place tomorrow, beginning with 5th-seeded Alexander Zverev and 20th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta. There’s been a ton of questions surrounding both of these players as they worked their way through the draw.

Of course, no story was bigger than how Carreno Busta got through to the quarterfinals, however his play in his quarterfinal match was absolutely stellar. He looked down and out in the fourth set after getting checked for injury, losing it 6-0 to Denis Shapovalov. Carreno Busta, though, rebounded spectacularly to reach his second Grand Slam semifinal appearance (his only other was at the 2017 US Open). It’s commonly perceived that he’s a clay-court specialist but most forget the fact that he’s won three of his four career titles on hard court and was a member of the ATP Top 10 in 2017 after a stellar summer.

Alexander Zverev has also been gracing many headlines so far this week. His game falls on both ends of the spectrum there are times where he looks unbeatable but other times looks as if he’d barely sneak out of a Challenger Tour match. It’s mainly due to his serve, which has given him a tournament-high 89 aces but has also yielded 41 double faults. If his serve is on, he’s easily one of the best players in the world, but his inability to produce a consistent second-serve (which speed-wise has ranged anywhere from 80mph to 120mph) has been his Achilles Heel so far in his young career.

The other semifinal, or more commonly referred to as the “De facto Final”, is going to be a career-changer for both players competing. Dominic Thiem, the event’s highest remaining seed, has the most accomplished career in the NextGen group and now in his prime at 27 years old. It will be key for him to win the title this week, as even though he’s grouped with players years younger than he is, his time to develop is running out. At his age, it’s time for him to hit his peak and become a major champion.

Alternatively, the 24-year-old Daniil Medvedev has time to grow and fine-tune his game before he hits his late-20s peak as a player. He’s entering the match looking to advance to his second straight semifinal (something Thiem has done in Roland Garros 2018 and 2019). Medvedev hasn’t dropped a set so far this match and is looking virtually unbeatable.

The biggest question in this match will be how he’ll deal with Thiem’s power. Before his quarterfinal matchup against fellow Russian, Andrey Rublev, Medvedev hadn’t been playing with a ton of power from the baseline. he completely switched up his game and pounded groundstroke after groundstroke on his way to a straight-set win. If Medvedev is able to play with this power alongside the great defense and court coverage he already possesses, it’ll be tough for Thiem to simply out-power the Russian.

Either way, it’s going to be a fantastic match regardless of the result. The pair have faced off three previous times in their careers, with Thiem holding the 2-1 advantage head-to-head. Medvedev took the last matchup in a convincing 6-3, 6-1 victory in the 2019 Montreal quarterfinals. Thiem, however, took the previous two, including a finals win in Barcelona last year 6-4, 6-0.

Next: Predicting where the remaining ATP US Open competitors will finish

The NextGen are finally making their moves for the top of the tour and it continues tomorrow beginning at 4:00 PM EST (Zverev- Carreno Busta) on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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