Rome Final Preview Novak Djokovic Versus Alexander Zverev

Rome Djokovic Zverev

Photo courtesy of www.entornointeligente.com

Novak Djokovic (2), in his first ATP 1000 final of the season, plays Alexander Zverev (16), in the first one of his career, for the Rome title. The Tennis Review previews the action and asks how Zverev will cope with the occasion and which Djokovic will show up for his first ATP 1000 final since Toronto ’16.

2017 has been a tough one for Djokovic- a loss in the Australian Open second round, splitting from his team, suffering an elbow injury and withdrawing from Miami- but here he is, back in the Rome final, his eighth in total (won the title ’08, ’11, ’14, ’15), the ATP 1000 event where he has his third highest winning percentage (86, after Indian Wells and Miami).

Familiar territory it may be for Djokovic, but it will be an unexplored one for his opponent, the 20 year old Alexander Zverev, currently, after an impressive 12 months, ranked his highest of 17 and the youngest member of the top 20.

The big question in this, their first ever meeting, is how will Zverev cope with the pressure of the occasion and the pressure his opponent is going to put on him?

Facing Djokovic in your first big final, after the 30 times ATP 1000 champion has beaten Dominic Thiem, the season’s best clay courter after Nadal, for the loss of one game, is about as tough a scenario as an ATP 1000 beau could find himself in.

Zverev has, however, plenty to give him confidence going into the match- he recently won the Munich title, reached the Madrid quarters, and commanded the third set of his semi versus Isner- but if anyone can take that confidence away, it is going to be Djokovic, especially when it comes to the return of serve and getting Zverev’s big ground stokes back into play and turning points to his advantage. Zverev’s serve and backhand are his strengths, and if Djokovic breaks them down, and exposes his weaknesses at the net, too, the German may doubt himself, and just the sniff of that could revive Djokovic and send him sailing to a record 31st ATP 1000 title before Zverev capitulates to both Djokovic and his own at times fiery temper and is even aware he has capsized.

Djokovic overwhelming the younger generations in ATP 1000 finals was, in 2016, a regular occurrence, but he has not made the finals of the last five he has competed in, and the last one he did win was back in Toronto ’16 in which he defeated Kei Nishikori in straights, (before Toronto, Djokovic had competed in 13 finals of the last 14 ATP 1000 events he had competed in and won ten of them), so the Serbian’s appearance in the Rome final raises another question fans will be curious to see answered – can Djokovic get back to the player he used to be in ATP 1000 finals?

Since Toronto, Djokovic, other than in Doha where he beat Murray for the title, has been inconsistent, throwing in sub par performances on the back of solid ones. The second seed cannot afford to that versus Zverev who plays like he belongs at the top of the professional tennis world, will not be afraid of the world No.2, especially after seeing good friend Nick Kyrgios scoring two wins over him this season, and has the serve and baseline game to take his chances if Djokovic plays less like his old self, the one we know and appreciate from 2015, the one who showed up in the semis versus Thiem, and more like the one who has been haunting his old stomping grounds of late, the one who showed up, after sinking Nishikori 6-1. 6-1 in the semis, to drown in a sea of his own errors in the ATP WTF finals.

The Tennis Review

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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