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Cristian Garin writes a “howdunit,” not a “whodunit”

Matt Zemek



Susan Mullane - USA TODAY Sports

A “whodunit” is a murder mystery in which the identity of the murderer isn’t revealed until the very end. The suspense of a “whodunit” — and the drama attached to it — lies in the journey of trying to figure out which person really is responsible for a crime.

The identity of the person who won Friday’s Munich quarterfinal is Cristian Garin, revealed at the very end of a long and protracted battle against Alexander Zverev. You might very reasonably think that the identity of the winner — the person at the center of this “whodunit” — is the important aspect of Friday’s drama in Germany.

That is an entirely reasonable assertion. Moreover, with Madrid and Rome waiting for Zverev — who is defending a total of 1,600 points in those two cities and badly needs to do well there (not Munich) to bolster his 2019 fortunes and his place in the rankings — it seems rather uncontroversial to say that this match is much more a reflection on Garin’s growth than Zverev’s stagnation.

This is all very new to Garin, who is learning how to make his way up the ladder on the ATP Tour. Zverev, in marked contrast, has already won Munich and Madrid and Rome in his career. Zverev’s ultimate proving ground is Roland Garros, with Wimbledon not too far off in the distance. Garin had more to gain in this match, and he took it. To that extent, the “whodunit” aspect of this match — the fact that Garin, not Zverev, won — matters.

Yet, I am much more interested in the “HOW-dunit” portion of Friday’s encounter. I am interested in HOW Garin won more than the simple fact that he won at all.

I am impressed not (just) that Garin beat Zverev in Germany, but that he did so after losing multiple match points when serving for the match. I am impressed that he won after getting broken when serving for the match. I am impressed that Garin trailed by a break multiple times in the third set and continued to face situations in which it seemed he was just about to fall off the ledge… only to fight back each time and pull even. I am impressed that after pulling even, Garin — not Zverev — had the final finishing kick to secure the victory.


Brassy. Ballsy. Huevos Rancheros. ONIONS!

I am led to ask this question, the question I view as supremely important after this match: Was this a young man playing with house money — having nothing to lose — and going for his shots in difficult conditions? Was this little more than a young player not knowing any better and hitting a jackpot?

OR, was this the sign of an inner steel, a competitive fiber which is going to stick and become a huge #INNERGAME weapon for the Chilean on tour?

We won’t know for a few years if this match was the start of something really big for Cristian Garin. It is certainly fun to have this question to ponder in the future.

The HOW-dunit is more interesting than the WHO-dunit, along these lines of thought and inquiry.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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