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.

 

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

AP Photo
Leave a comment

LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”

Kuznetsova out of Australian Open after left wrist surgery

Getty Images
1 Comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has withdrawn from next month’s Australian Open after having surgery on her left wrist.

Tennis Australia on Friday said No. 12-ranked Kuznetsova and China’s Sasai Zheng, with a right knee injury, were the only players ranked in the top 100 who are confirmed as not playing the Jan. 15-28 tournament at Melbourne Park.

Serena Williams, who was pregnant while winning the 2017 Australian Open title and gave birth to her first child in September, “is anticipated to return,” Tennis Australia said.

Williams could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with another win at Melbourne Park. Serena Williams’ ranking has dropped to No. 22 during her break from the tour.