Novak Djokovic did double duty on Saturday but was barely made to sweat in completing his rain interrupted quarter final against the Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, and then in his semi final match against Dominic Thiem as he booked a place in the final on Sunday against the German teenager Alexander Zverev who won in three sets against the American John Isner to enter his maiden Masters series final.
The second seeded Djokovic put in a flawless performance on Saturday night as he took only 59 minutes to dispatch the Austrian, conqueror of Rafael Nadal, 6-1, 6-0 to reach his eighth final at the Foro Italico. Earlier in the day, the four time champion wasted little time in ending the run of the Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro.
The match resumed with Djokovic down 1-2 in the second set after having clinched the first set 6-1, including reeling off six consecutive games after being 0-1 down in the opening set. He improves to 41-6 at this event and is within one win from taking the sole possession of the record for Masters 1000 titles. He is tied with the Spaniard Rafael Nadal with 30 ATP 1000 titles.
Djokovic broke serve in the second game for a 2-0 lead, but Thiem avoided a bagel by holding serve in the sixth game. Thiem, who had saved three match points against the American Sam Querrey in the round of sixteen, and then claimed the prize scalp of the seven time champion Nadal in the last eight, appeared fatigued and won only 13 of 37 points on serve in the entire match. Djokovic saved two break points on his serve and win 55 points in the match, while Thiem won only 25 points.
Zverev, who turned 20 on April 20, becomes the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since a 19 year old Novak Djokovic in 2007 at the Miami Masters. He battled past the 32 year old American John Isner 6-4,6-7(5),6-1 in just under two hours. Zverev has captured titles at Montpellier on hard courts and one clay court crown in Munich this season. It would be the first meeting between Djokovic and Zverev.
One break of serve was all it took to settle the first set as Zverev converted on his lone break point opportunity. Neither player faced any break point on serve in the second set, which Isner claimed in the tie break. While Zverev saved all three break points in the decider, he converted on two of his four break point opportunities to clinch the third set decisively 6-1.
Regardless of the outcome of the final, Zverev will have a career high ranking of 14, and should he win he is projected to rise to number ten in the rankings. Djokovic meanwhile is bidding to win his second title of the year having won the hard court title in Doha at the start of the year. Zverev, seeded sixteenth has a 26-9 record in 2017, while the second seeded Serb has a 20-5 record this year. He is also bidding to claim his 68th career title, while Zverev is looking for his fourth title.
Prediction : Djokovic seems to have recovered his hunger and will be itching to enter Roland Garros where he is the defending champion on a high note. Zverev’s time will certainly come. Djokovic should win it in two tight sets or possibly three.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]