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Ricky’s pick for the Nitto ATP Finals round robin: Alcaraz vs. Zverev

Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev will be going head-to-head for the seventh time in their careers when they clash in the opening match of Red Group competition at the Nitto ATP Finals on Monday afternoon.

They have split their six previous encounters, with Zverev leading 2-1 on hard courts–including 1-0 indoors. Alcaraz dominated their most recent meeting at the U.S. Open this summer, but the 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 beatdown came only two days after Zverev needed four hours and 41 minutes to outlast Jannik Sinner in a fourth-round thriller that ended after 1:30 am. In other words, there is no need to put any stock in that Alcaraz-Zverev result.

Alcaraz ended up losing to Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows, continuing what has been post-Wimbledon disappointment for him. The 20-year-old Spaniard hasn’t won a title since leaving the All-England Club and his fall swing includes a Shanghai fourth-round loss to Grigor Dimitrov, a Beijing semifinal setback against Sinner, and an immediate exit from the Paris Masters at the hands of Roman Safiullin. Alcaraz also withdrew from Basel due to foot and back injuries.

Zverev has made a mostly successful comeback from a 2022 ankle injury. The German is back up to eighth in the rankings thanks in part to a pair of ATP titles in 2023 and a runner-up showing at the Madrid Masters. He has cooled off a bit since lifting the trophy in Chengdu earlier this month, but at least that means he is well rested for the year-end championship.

Whereas Alcaraz has never played this event (he was forced to withdraw last season), Zverev is a two-time champion (2019 and 2021). This is a prime opportunity for the 26-year-old to pull off an upset.

Pick: Zverev in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.