20-year-old Alexander Zverev notched the biggest victory of his fledgling career with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over the world number two Novak Djokovic in the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Sunday.
The German dismissed the 29-year-old in an hour and 21 minutes on Court Centrale, relinquishing not a single break point to become the youngest Masters 1000 series winner since the Serb at the Miami Open in 2007.
The triumph moved Zverev into esteemed company in the top 10 ahead of the French Open in two weeks time.
Elated at success
“When I was 11 or 12, I thought I'd probably win about four Slams already by the age of 20,” joked the German.
“Then when I was 16, everything started to be more realistic. I could not imagine Top 10 by the age of 20. It's something truly amazing.
“I’m trying to get better and accomplish even more.”
Zverev broke in Djokovic’s opening service game as the Serb’s serve looked uncharacteristically shaky.
Although he’s not enjoyed the most productive year, the 29-year-old was striking the ball with hitherto unseen convinction against Dominic Thiem in the semifinal on Saturday.
He lost only a single service game in his straight sets rout of the Austrian and the old steel that was a hallmark of his march to the French Open title last year was resurfacing.
That all came to a halt on Sunday against the 20-year-old as Zverev notched his fourth career title.
Only a spirited fightback from the Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in Madrid last week has blotted an otherwise flawless copybook for the German over the previous two weeks.
He tasted glory in his native Munich earlier this month and dropped only a single set en route to victory in the Italian capital.
Fabio Fognini, who dumped the world number one Andy Murray out of the tournament, was dispatched in convincing fashion before Milos Raonic’s big-serving tendencies were tamed in the quarterfinal.
Zverev was a steady presence from the baseline against Djokovic, dictating the rallies on his own serve before closing out the opening set in convincing fashion.
Those anticipating a vintage Djokovic fightback were to be left short-changed when the 20-year-old broke in the third game of set two to set the wheels in motion.
Djokovic, staring at 5-3 on his own serve, then wilted as Zverev smelled blood just short of the ninety minute mark.
Rafael Nadal’s premature exit from the tournament could prove a blessing in disguise and the Spaniard remains the hot favorite to add a 10th Roland Garros crown to his resume.
“The strong favorite is still definitely Rafa [Nadal]. Novak is playing great again. Dominic Thiem has been showing he's been playing very well,” noted Zverev.
“I just won here, so I’ve got to put myself on that list, even though I don't want to say that I'm the favorite myself.”
Exactly two years ago today, he cracked the top 100 with a second ATP Challenger title in Heilbronn.
The sky is now the limit.