Getty Images

Zverev signals arrival, beats Djokovic to win Italian Open

Leave a comment

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.

 

Wozniacki beats Pavlyuchenkova for Pan Pacific title

AP Photo
Leave a comment

TOKYO — Caroline Wozniacki overwhelmed Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 7-5 to retain her Pan Pacific Open title on Sunday.

The victory gives Wozniacki, also champion in Tokyo in 2010, her first title of the year. The Dane had lost all six of her previous finals in 2017.

“This was my seventh final of the year – it gets harder to get that last win,” said world No. 6 Wozniacki, who has now won at least one title every year since 2008. “I’ve been putting myself in a position to win all year. It was really important for me to stay focused and positive.”

Wozniacki had crushed world No.1 Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals and a similar score looked on the cards here Sunday.

“The court suits my game. She plays powerfully so it was important for me to make her move around early on. In the first set everything was going my way. In the second set she served better, so it was tricky for me to break.”

The first set lasted only 20 minutes as Pavlyuchenkova struggled to get a foothold.

“I was really disappointed in the first three games,” said the Russian. “I felt I was a bit unlucky and really believe if I had turned those points round and won the games, it may have been a different match. I was a little down on myself and missed more than I should.”

The Russian fought harder in a second set that went with serve until the 12th and final game.

Yet she failed to earn a break point in the match and appeared outclassed in her first Premier-level final since Moscow in 2015. Semifinal opponent Angelique Kerber was the only seed she faced this week before third-seeded Wozniacki.

“It’s disappointing to lose no matter which round it is, even more disappointing in the final,” said Pavlyuchenkova, who needed three sets to win all four of her matches en route to the final.

“I felt a little flat due to the previous matches. I didn’t have so much energy left.”

Federer beats Kyrgios as Europe wins first Laver Cup

AP Photo
1 Comment

PRAGUE — Roger Federer rallied to beat Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 7-6 (6), 11-9 Sunday and clinch the new Laver Cup tournament for Europe on Sunday.

The three-day competition at Prague’s O2 Arena pitted a team of the best six European players against the top six from the rest of the world.

Seen by some as a tennis version of the Ryder Cup in golf, the inaugural Laver Cup was played on an unusual black hard court.

Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych also formed the European team, while Sam Querrey, John Isner, Jack Sock, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe played for the world.

The tournament is to honor Rod Laver, an 11-time major champion who won two calendar-year Grand Slams.

Chicago will host it in 2018.