Djokovic and Zverev in challenge for the Rome Masters title
By Ros Satar, in Rome
- Alexander Zverev  def. John Isner 6-4 6-7(5) 6-1
- Novak Djokovic  def. Dominic Thiem  6-1 6-0
- Djokovic v Zverev – First meeting
ROME, ITALY – Novak Djokovic reached his eighth Rome final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia Masters, while Alexander Zverev is in his first Masters final.
Alexander Zverev  def. John Isner 6-4 6-7(5) 6-1
The rangy Alexander Zverev is fast making moves to be a real contender on the clay. Having won his first clay title in Munich, he challenged for a spot in his first Masters semi-final last week in Madrid and now has gone two better.
With just the sniff of a single break point in a competitive first set, Zverev was quick to capitalise for an advantage to take the first set. The second set was no less tight, with not a break point to be found until the tie-break – John Isner taking full advantage to build up a 5-0 lead, before Zverev reeled off five of the next six points, saving three set points before losing the second set.
Suddenly the tide turned, with Zverev very much in command from the start of the third set. He quickly chased out to a 3-0 lead an although Isner stopped the rot with a game on the board, he lost serve once more, and his chance was gone on Zverev’s third match point.
He said: “I tried to mix it up a lot. I tried to stand forward and then tried to stand backwards so he doesn’t find a rhythm on his serve, because if he does, he’s very dangerous and he’s very tough to break. So I tried a lot of different things. I wanted to put the ball in play and then play out the point quite a lot.”
Novak Djokovic  def. Dominic Thiem  6-1 6-0
In the quarter-finals, Dominic Thiem had stunned Rafael Nadal to book a place in his second Masters semi-final in a row, but the step to make it a second final back to back met stiff resistance in a rapidly improving Novak Djokovic.
It is hardly surprising that Thiem was spent coming into this match. After losing in the third round of Monte Carlo he has been in three straight finals – Barcelona and Madrid losing to Nadal, before finally getting the better of him, only to be trounced by Djokovic.
Thiem said, after the match: “Against Novak, it’s really tough for me to play, I mean, because he doesn’t give me any time. I don’t really like to play against him, because he has a game style which doesn’t fit me at all.
“Also it was the first time for me to play on such a high level for three weeks or more, and today I paid a little bit the price for that.”
For Djokovic after months of turbulence, it seemed a huge relief to get through a long day with one and a half matches under his belt on Saturday.
He told reporters: “Undoubtedly the best performance of this year and maybe even longer. Yeah, I mean, what can I say? I’m overjoyed and happy with every minute that I spent on the court today, even with Del Potro and also now with Thiem. It was a perfect match. Everything that I intended to do, I have done it and even more.”
Djokovic v Zverev – First meeting
There will be no time for nostalgia from Djokovic – having grown up playing with Zverev’s older brother Mischa, he remembered seeing him around.
He surmised: :Yeah, he’s in a great form. He’s 20 years old. His life and career are ahead of him. Of course I can relate to what he’s feeling right now. I have been in his shoes. I know how excited you feel before your first final of a big tournament.
“He’s a nice guy and someone that I like. And I have seen him grow up. I know his older brother. We grew up together. It’s amazing to see going back 10, 12 years ago when he was only a boy going around with his racquet and, you know, fast-forward to this day that we are gonna play in the finals of one of the biggest events in the world.
“It’s a great beginning of his professional career he had so far, and he deserves to be in the final, but I’m going to make sure he doesn’t get his hands on that trophy tomorrow. I’ll at least try (smiling).”
It is an intriguing match up – both play an aggressive baseline game, and you get a sense this will all come down to how consistent Zverev can be on his serve. They both move well, but if Djokovic feels as though he is ‘back’ then this might not be quite the changing of the guard as some may think.
Prediction: Djokovic in three sets.
Djokovic & Zverev are scheduled on Centrale, not before 4pm (3pm BST).
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