Zverev Wins Second Rome Title In His Special Place

Alexander Zverev (photo: Foto FITP)

ROME/WASHINGTON, May 19, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Alexander Zverev and Nicolas Jarry capped another surprising week on the ATP Tour as the 57th Open Era edition of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia reached its conclusion at Foro Italico Sunday evening.

In a European spring clay season in which each of the ATP Masters 1000 events has crowned a different champion – Stefanos Tsitsipas in Monte-Carlo and Andrey Rublev in Madrid – the World No. 5 Zverev continued the trend as he won his second Rome title and sixth ATP Masters 1000 crown with his 6-4, 7-5 victory over No. 24 Jarry in an hour and 41 minutes.

By the end of the title match, when Zverev dropped to his knees in celebration, it had become truly evident why the Eternal City of Rome is a special place for him.

“Obviously winning my first ever [Masters] here in Rome and winning my first [tournament] after my [2022 Roland Garros] injury also in Rome, so Rome is a very special place for me,” Zverev said in an on-court interview after winning his 22nd overall title of his career and first since Chengdu last year. “Rome is a place of firsts for me. I’m extremely happy about it. It is a very, very special week.”

When the Italian fortnight began, it was assumed that with the absence of  World No. 2 Jannik Sinner and World No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz due to injuries, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic – a six-time Italian champion and this year’s top seed – and No. 2 seed and defending champ Daniil Medvedev would be duking it out for this year’s title.

Not so fast.

Djokovic went down to the surprising No. 29 seed Alejandro Tabilo of Chile in the third round a week ago two days after accidentally being hit on the head with a water bottle while signing autographs, and Medvedev was eliminated a round later by American 14th seed Tommy Paul. Meanwhile, a resurgent No. 3 seed Zverev solidly worked his way through the upper half of the draw, ending Tabilo’s dream run in the quarterfinals, while 21st seed Jarry proved his mettle in the lower half fending off all challengers, including sixth seed Tsitsipas and Paul in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.

Sunday’s title meeting between Zverev, 27, and Jarry, 28 – their seventh career head-to-head and fifth on clay – began with the best possible start for Zverev, who served three consecutive aces to open the final and firmly held at love. He pin-pointed his first nine first serves in play before needing a second serve.

Early on, it was all about the serve and Zverev compiled three love holds in his first four service games. He went on to win the 41-minute first set 6-4 by breaking Jarry in the 10th game, but not before garnering four service games at love. Zverev won 19 of 19 first-serve points, with average first serves clocking at 130 miles-per-hour. He dropped only one point on his serve.

Then, as the sun moved behind the clouds and full shadows took over residence in the sold-out Campo Centrale, Zverev continued to apply pressure on Jarry as the second set developed. The 6-foot-7 Chilean had to save two break points and weather a 22-shot rally to hold for 2-all, while Zverev strung together his sixth and seventh love holds to surge ahead 4-3.

Although Jarry pressured Zverev in the ninth game by winning two points off the German’s serve, Zverev came up with a big-serve hold to move within a game of winning the title.

Next, Zverev gained two championship points on Jarry’s serve but the Chilean fought off both, the second with a forehand winner. However, in Jarry’s next service game, Zverev finally put away the title on his fourth championship-point opportunity after his opponent hit a forehand long that ended an 11-shot rally.

“He is playing huge and you can see by the opponents he has beaten here this week,” Zverev said of Jarry, who was the first Chilean finalist in Rome and at the ATP Masters 1000 level since Fernando Gonzalez in 2007. “Playing incredible tennis. I told him if he continues to play like that, he will have many chances at this level.

“Today I am extremely happy to be the winner.”

Zverev finished with 15 winners while making just eight unforced errors, compared to 15 winners and 29 unforced errors by Jarry. He won a remarkable 95 percent (37 of 39) of his first-serve points – won points on all but five serves overall – and faced no break points. Zverev converted two of nine break points and outpointed Jarry 70-51. During his Roman conquest he dropped only one set.

Jarry, who was appearing in his first ATP Masters 1000 final, will move up to No. 17 in the PIF ATP Rankings tomorrow. Zverev will be the new World No. 4, his highest ranking since 2022, a week before the start of the French Open.

“The focus is on Paris, that’s for sure,” Zverev said. “Let me enjoy this one for a day or so, then I’ll have my full focus on Paris.”

Granollers and Zeballos wins second Rome doubles title together

Spain’s Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, ranked joint No. 1 since the start of May, showed why their level keeps getting better and better.

On Sunday afternoon, the Spanish/Argentine duo didn’t let a brief rain delay in the second set dampen their desire to excel.

Instead, Granollers, 38, and Zeballos, 39, won their sixth title together and captured their second Rome crown as a team (the first came in 2020) by defeating Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador and Mate Pavic of Croatia, 6-2, 6-2, in 66 minutes. It capped an ATP Masters 1000 event in which they didn’t drop any sets and were pushed to a tie-break just twice.

Granollers and Zeballos, who saved both break points they faced and converted four of five break-point opportunities, outpointed their opponents 55-30. Sunday’s title victory was their first of the season – ninth as a team – and their 149th win together. They’ve won at least one title per season going back to 2019.

“It’s always special to win a Masters 1000 title,” Granollers said during a courtside interview before the trophy ceremony. “We’re really happy with how we played all week. It’s unbelievable how we played.”

Zeballos added: “I think we are like wine, you know. We are getting older and we are better. We are playing very confidently. We are happy to be in this place.”

Meanwhile, Arevalo-Gonzalez and Pavic, who didn’t drop a set until the final, are 18-9 on tour-level after making their team debut by winning the title at Hong Kong at the beginning of the season.

Italians Errani and Paolini win Rome women’s doubles title

Italians Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini thrilled the partisan Campo Centrale crowd by winning their first Rome and WTA 1000 title together. They defeated third-seeded Coco Gauff of the United States and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand, 6-3, 4-6, 10-8, in one hour and 28 minutes.

The Italians outpointed the American/Kiwi pair 68-60 and the match tie-break was decided by a double fault by Gauff — her team’s sixth — on championship point.

The Rome crown is the second team title of the season for Errani and Paolini – and third overall – following their trophy win at Linz last February and at Monastir last season.

Errani is a former Doubles World No. 1 and won a career doubles Grand Slam with fellow Italian Roberta Vinci. Sunday’s title triumph was her 30th, while it was the fourth for Paolini.

It marked the first time since 2012 (Errani and Vinci) that the Rome women’s doubles title had been won by Italians.

By the numbers

Rome marks the fifth different ATP Masters 1000 champion this season, following Carlos Alcaraz at Indian Wells, Jannik Sinner at Miami, Stefanos Tsitsipas at Monte-Carlo and Andrey Rublev at Madrid.

“Quotable …”

“One of the reasons I play tennis is because of him. I know he’s enjoying. It’s been a surprise for him to be here. Of course, a surprise to be doing as good as I’m doing in this tournament.

“So just I think he’s in a part of his life that he enjoys everything, so this is very special for him.”

Nicolas Jarry, during a post-match interview Friday, on what it means to him to play in front of his grandfather, Jaime Fillol, who was a Top 20 player in the early years of the Open Era.