Zverev Storms Back, Reaches Third Rome Final

Alexander Zverev (photo: Foto FITP)

ROME/WASHINGTON, May 17, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 5 Alexander Zverev, the only Top-10 player remaining in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia men’s draw, rallied from the brink of defeat to tame Chilean Alejandro Tabilo, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, in two hours and 17 minutes to advance to his third Rome title match.

The 2017 Rome champion from Germany, who is in pursuit of his sixth career ATP Masters 1000 title, was befuddled by Tabilo’s drop shot throughout the opening set in their first meeting. However, Zverev made adjustments in the middle set and took advantage of the No. 29 seed Tabilo’s passivity in the final set to win going away.

“I was just hanging on in the second set. I brought my energy up. I was really just hanging on and waiting and the patience was kind of good today,” Zverev said during his on-court interview. “He hit me off the court in the first set and I did not play well at all, but he was a big reason why. He gave me no rhythm and I am happy I turned it around in the tie-break and ran away in the third set.”

Zverev (27-9 this season and into his first tour-level final) improved to 18-0 versus lefties since Roland Garros last year and 25-3 on clay against players ranked outside the Top 30 since the start of the 2023 season. He did so by hitting 27 winners to 12 unforced errors and also by converting two of six break points. Tabilo, 26, who outpointed Zverev 85-82, countered with 28 winners but made 17 unforced errors. The two sets Tabilo lost were the only ones he dropped in his five Rome matches.

The victory broke Zverev’s four-match losing streak in tour-level semifinals. The 27-year-old German’s most recent final and title came at Chengdu in September 2023, and his last championship match at the ATP Masters 1000 level occurred in 2022 at Madrid. By winning Friday, Zverev tied Boris Becker for most ATP Masters 1000 finals by a German since the series began in 1990.

Meanwhile, the World No. 32 Tabilo, who was a title winner at Auckland on hard courts in January, will head to Roland Garros with a 19-10 win-loss record and his head held high. After all, he defeated World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the third round and backed it with quality wins in the fourth and quarterfinal rounds against No. 16 seed Karen Khachanov and No. 56 Zhang Zhizhen. He will move into the Top 30 for the first time at No. 25 in the PIF ATP Rankings on Monday.

Jarry advances to first ATP Masters 1000 final

On Sunday, Zverev will oppose World No. 24 Nicolas Jarry of Chile, seeded 21st, who defeated World No. 16 and 14th seed Tommy Paul of the United States, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3, in two hours and 44 minutes on Campo Centrale Friday night.

Jarry won on his fifth match point opportunity to advance to his first ATP Masters 1000 final. It was his second career win against Paul following an earlier triumph at last year’s French Open.

“I was pleased with how I came back with my aggressive tennis in the third set. To finish the match is never easy, but I made it through and it’s an amazing feeling,” Jarry said in an on-court interview.

The 6-foot-7 Jarry finished the match with 33 winners but made 49 unforced errors, including 24 in the second set, enabling Paul to pull out a middle-set tiebreaker and force a decider. He improved to 16-11 for the 2024 season and is up to a career-high No. 17 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings going into Sunday’s showdown against Zverev, who has won four of their six career meetings.

Friday’s Foro Italico results

Saturday’s Foro Italico order of play

By the numbers

Alexander Zverev was the only Top-10 player among the semifinalists, making it only the second time this century – and first since 2020 – there was only one Top-10 player reaching the Rome semifinals.

“Quotable …”

“If he plays the way he plays it is difficult to be aggressive. It is hard to just say I am going to hit my forehand harder or backhand harder. If I am just picking up balls it is definitely difficult to do that. The one thing I didn’t do well at the beginning was serve well. That was something I think doesn’t help. All in all, I am happy in the final. At the end, winning is the most important.”

— No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev, during his on-court interview, describing Alejandro Tabilo’s success in returning the German’s second serves.