The first time for anything is always special and always remembered. 19 year old Alexander Zverev is in that situation. Playing his first ATP Masters 1000 final he has stunned Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 to win the title in Rome, the Eternal City.
“I am very happy with the way I played and I am very happy with my performance all week, actually,” Zverev said. “And especially today, I think it was one of the best matches I ever played maybe. I knew I had to be aggressive from the first point on and to the last. It was very important for me to be able to stay aggressive and don’t let him take over the game.”
The trophy was presented to the teenager by legendary Rod Laver at one of the most iconic tennis venues anywhere in the world, the Foro Italico, Zverev becomes he youngest winner of an ATP masters 1000 since Djokovic himself won Miami in 2007 at the age of 19. Zverev is also the youngest winner in Rome since 2006 when Rafa Nadal won the title, also at the age of 19.
Interestingly, Zverev is the first player born in the 1990’s to win a title at this level and the first German to do so since Tommy Haas won the Stuttgart indoor in 2001. Zverev is just the fourth German, the others being Boris Becker and Michael Stick to win a Masters 1000.
Zverev’s win is a feather in the cap of the NextGen players and the other exciting young players like Dominic Thiem and Nick Kyrgios, coming through on the ATP World Tour.
“It’s nice for the tour to have a few younger guys to be able to play at the top,” Zverev said. “Unfortunately for tennis and unfortunately for the spectators, the top four cannot play forever, so it’s good that younger players are starting to get through.”
Zverev won the toss and elected to receive, it was a ploy that worked because he broke Djokovic immediately and that allowed Zverev to be more settled from early on and, as he said, remain aggressive throughout. Zverev has known Djokovic since the age of four, his brother Mischa and Novak came through juniors together and he has a good relationship with the Serb.
Not only has he won his first big title, but Zverev advances to the world’s top 10, also for the first time.
“During the tournament I tried not to think about it too much,” he said “Obviously now that it is all over, I’m very happy, very, very happy to win this title, which is one of the biggest tournaments in the world, especially on clay, which is always very tough mentally and physically. Getting there is one thing, staying there is going to be very, very difficult.”
Djokovic thrashed Dominic Thiem in the semis who in turn ended Rafa Nadal’s 17 match win streak on clay this year handing him his only loss on the surface so far in 2017. Djokovic, who turned 30 the day after the Rome final, extended his praise to Zverev on winning the title.
However the focus of discussion on him was his confirmation that Andre Agassi would be his coach starting with the French Open.
“Andre is someone I have tremendous respect for as a person and as a player,” Djokovic said. “He has been through everything that I’m going through. On the court he understands the game amazingly well. I am enjoying every conversation I have with him.
“Also, on the other hand, he’s someone that nurtures the family values, philanthropy work. He’s a very humble man, is very educated, he’s a person that can contribute to my life on an off the court a lot. I’m excited to what is ahead of us.”
The doubles title in Rome was won by Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, they defeated Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers 4-6, 6-4, 10-3.