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Zverev signals arrival, beats Djokovic to win Italian Open

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ROME — Alexander Zverev signaled his anticipated arrival among the tennis elite by defeating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 Sunday to win the Italian Open.

The 20-year-old Zverev became the youngest player to win a Masters 1000 event since Djokovic won in Miami a decade ago at 19.

“I don’t know what to say,” Zverev said during the trophy presentation. “Coming in to this week I never thought I could be standing here in the finals or getting this trophy.”

Zverev broke in the very first game and was never really challenged by Djokovic, who appeared drained after having to win two matches Saturday to reach the final.

Djokovic committed nearly twice as many unforced errors as Zverev – 27 to 14.

The match lasted 1 hour, 21 minutes.

Afterward, Djokovic announced that Andre Agassi will coach him at the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

“We are both excited to work together and see where it takes us,” Djokovic said. “We don’t have any long-term commitment. It’s just us trying to get to know each other in Paris a little bit.”

The title will move Zverev up to a career-high No. 10 in the rankings Monday and place him among the contenders for Roland Garros. It will also add credibility to the belief by many tennis experts that Zverev will reach No. 1 some day.

“If I have only half of the career Novak has had, I’ll be fine,” Zverev said when asked if he can follow in Djokovic’s footsteps.

Tennis great Rod Laver presented Zverev with the trophy.

“Getting the trophy from Mr. Laver is something very special and something I’ll remember for the rest of my career,” Zverev said.

Earlier, Elina Svitolina surged to No. 1 in the season-long rankings race by beating Simona Halep 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the women’s final.

It was a tour-best fourth title this year for Svitolina and the most prestigious trophy of her young career. The 22-year-old Ukrainian also leads the tour with 31 match wins this season.

“Every day I’m just trying to work on my mental part, my physical, my tennis,” Svitolina said. “Everything just came together and I’m very happy that it’s happened in such a big tournament.”

The fourth-ranked Halep was in full control and serving for the first set at 5-2 when she rolled her right ankle while sliding over what appeared to be a small hole in the Foro Italico stadium court.

While Halep was able to eventually win the opening set, she required treatment to her ankle from a trainer twice and was late getting to shots as the match wore on.

“Sorry guys for third set,” Halep told the crowd. “It was a little tough for me to get through but Elina played great.”

Halep was playing in her second clay-court final in two weeks after winning the title in Madrid last Sunday.

Svitolina also required medical treatment from a trainer midway through the second set, for an apparent problem with her left leg.

“Hopefully we’ll recover, me and Simona, because we’re struggling a bit physically,” Svitolina said.

During the post-match presentation, Svitolina dropped the cover of the silver trophy on to the red clay court, prompting her to say, “Oops.”

The first two sets featured long, nervous baseline rallies in which both players waited for their opponent to commit errors.

“It was very tough first two sets and I’m really happy that it’s all finished,” Svitolina said.

 

‘Big 4’ given top 4 seedings at Wimbledon; Kerber also No. 1

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LONDON — The “Big 4” of men’s tennis were given the four highest seedings for this year’s tournament at Wimbledon.

No. 1-ranked Andy Murray, the defending champion, is the top-seeded player, followed by Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Nadal and Djokovic are also in the top four of the ATP rankings, but Federer is No. 5. Third-ranked Stan Wawrinka, who has won the other three Grand Slam titles but not Wimbledon, is seeded fifth.

Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori and Alexander Zverev round out the top 10 in the seedings.

In the women’s seedings, Angelique Kerber is No. 1 in a list that mirrors the top-10 rankings. The only exception is the absence of No. 4-ranked Serena Williams, who is pregnant and skipping the tournament.

That means fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina is the fourth-seeded player at Wimbledon, behind Kerber, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova.

Caroline Wozniacki, Johanna Konta, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dominika Cibulkova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Venus Williams complete the top 10 in the seedings.

Serena bares all in Vanity Fair cover shoot

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After accidentally revealing her pregnancy through Snapchat back in April, Serena Williams has not been shy about sharing her pregnancy with the public. In fact, Williams bares all in the cover of Vanity Fair’s August issue, wearing only the same waist chain she wore in that Snapchat.

The cover photo she tweeted Tuesday shows the tennis star’s full-body profile. Taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, the photographs of Williams’ baby bump are surrounded by earthly hues of grey and burnt orange. Her fiancé, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, stepped in for a couple photos, embracing his future wife.

As carefree as she looks in these pictures, Williams probably hasn’t been having the best week after tennis legend John McEnroe questioned her athleticism when compared to men. McEnroe said in an interview with NPR earlier this week that Williams – a 23-time Grand Slam singles winner –  would rank “like 700” on the men’s tour. When he came on the Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday morning, McEnroe stated his confusion over why his comment on Williams was a big deal: “Why is it always McEnroe that gets caught in the middle of this? It drives me crazy.”

Williams, an active Twitter user, responded to his comments:

Williams’ baby, which she has yet to find out the sex of, is due this fall.