German 20-year-old Alexander Zverev arrived Sunday — arrived into the top 10 for the first time, and as a legitimate French Open threat after roughing-up former No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 in the final of the Italian Open.
The surprises didn’t end there, as afterwards Djokovic announced that his new coach would be former great Andre Agassi.
Zverev, the No. 16 seed, is the youngest winner in Rome since Rafael Nadal won at age 19. He will jump from 19 to No. 10 come Monday on the ATP rankings. He is No. 1 on the ATP’s Next Gen standings for the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals event for players 21-and-under, and No. 4 on the 2017-only standings in his quest to qualify for his first year-ending ATP Finals.
“I’m very happy with the way I played and my performance all week, I think today was one of the best matches I ever played,” Zverev said. “I knew I had to be aggressive from the first point to the last. It was very important for me to be able to stay this aggressive and not let him take over the game.”
Zverev broke Djokovic in the opening game of the match, dropping only nine points on serve the entire contest and giving the Serb not one sniff of a break point. Djokovic’s unimpressive slate in the face of the German onslaught was 11 winners to 27 unforced errors, while Zverev was +2 in winners to unforced errors.
It was a fourth consecutive Rome final for Djokovic (now 4-4 career in Rome finals), who fell to 1-1 in finals this year and 67-30 for his career.
“He served very well,” Djokovic surmised. “I just wasn’t able to get any rhythm on my returns. If we would get into a rally, he would smash the ball from the first or second shot. There is no doubt he took time away from me. It happens. If he serves this well and this efficiently, it’s tough to play him on any surface.
“He didn’t get much from my side. I played very poor today. Just couldn’t find any rhythm,” he added. “Conditions were completely different. Haven’t played a day match for three, four days already. Just a lot of wind and just very fast and bouncing. Yesterday was no wind and slow. I just couldn’t find the proper rhythm, proper positioning on the court.”
Rome is Zverev’s third title of the year after Munich (clay) and Montpeillier (indoor hard), and he rises to 3-0 in finals in 2017 and 4-2 career.
Djokovic after the match dropped the Agassi coaching bomb.
“I spoke to Andre the last couple of weeks on the phone and we decided to get together in Paris,” said Djokovic of the American’s first foray into coaching. “He’s going to be there. We’ll see what the future brings…We don’t have any long term commitment, it’s just us trying to get to know each other in Paris a little but. He will not stay the whole tournament, he’s going to stay until a certain time then we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
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