Djokovic vs. Zverev in the final of the Italian Open felt like one of those matches.
A match where you felt that something important was happening.
A composed 6-4, 6-3 victory, never looked in doubt as Alexander Zverev took his first ATP title. All of that in his first final no less.
With the big four – Federer, Nadal, Murray, Djokovic – all moving into their thirties, who is going to fill the vacuum that will appear as Old Father Time presses on?
Zverev may be the answer.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
Djokovic is desperately out of form and going through a complete change of coaching staff. He recently admitted that ‘shock therapy’ was required to get him back to his best. How he progresses with a certain André Agassi in his corner will be exciting to watch.
The point, is that Novak is not playing invincible tennis.
Zverev came out and played with a calmness that went well beyond his twenty years. His serve was accurate. His ground strokes were superb. His nerve was unwavering.
The experienced Serbian must have remembered how nervous he was in his first Masters final, even if it was ten years ago. However, when the end was near, it was Djokovic who looked like the novice. Double faulting to bring up match point, before knocking a simple back hand long.
Zverev did not face a single break point and played very consistently. To beat a twelve-time Major winner in your first final is incredibly impressive and will do much for his kudos on the tour.
How good can he get?
At twenty years and one month, Zverev is the youngest Masters event champion since Djokovic himself in 2007. With his ex-professional Father as his coach, and his older brother Mischa ranked 33rd in the world, competition is part and parcel of the family.
After the win, he spoke eloquently and respectfully about Djokovic. The German said;
“It’s such an honour being on the court against one of the best ever players. If I have half the career Novak has had, I will be just fine.”
In each of his Grand Slams the young German has improved on the year before. It is one thing winning an ATP event, but it is quite another going the distance in a two-week Grand Slam.
What is certain however, is that performances like this will ensure he is perceived as filling the void of the ageing ‘big four.’