Novak Djokovic can finally get his year and his charge for a return to No.1 off the ground when he plays in the Rome final on Sunday. His opponent will be a first time Masters 1000 finalist in Alexander Zverev, who was the beneficiary of a breakdown in his half of the draw, missing out on playing Wawrinka and Murray once more.
That doesn’t mean Zverev is undeserving as he reeled off a number of impressive wins go get to this stage. He beat Fognini, Raonic to make it to the semis before a three set win over John Isner to book his place in the final. He bounced back in fine style after dropping a tiebreak to win the final set 6-1. “I’m into my first final of a Masters , which is great, and especially on clay… It’s a very physical game and it’s very tough points all the time. ” Zverev said.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing, but I still want to keep improving and I still want to develop my game and get better.” He added. Testing his game against the World No.2 will be another chance for the German to see how far he has actually come. Djokovic finished off a rain delayed match in straight sets against Del Potro before taking on Dominic Thiem later on in the day. The Austrian had picked up an astonishing win over Rafael Nadal in the previous round and there seemed potential for an upset once more if Thiem matched his level.
That was not to be as Djokovic delivered a thrashing to Thiem that no-one would have predicted, winning 6-1 6-0 and 55-25 in points to further show the enormity of the victory. The hour on court was one of the high points for Djokovic this year. “This is undoubtedly my best performance of this year and maybe even longer. I’m overjoyed and happy with every minute that I spent on the court today. It was a perfect match. Everything that I intended to do, I have done it and even more,” he said.
Zverev will be at a career high ranking after this tournament with it being either 14 or 10 depending on the result. The 20 year old was always seen as one of the top young talents in the game but it could be interesting to see if he becomes the first to make top 10 out of him and Nick Kyrgios. With just a third round to defend, a deep run could see that happen in Paris instead if he fails to do so here. If Djokovic is back to his form of the past few years, it will be hard to back against him and it will be a statement that he isn’t quite out of the running for the French Open just yet.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in straight sets