Djokovic Ruthless In Reaching Rome Final
Serbian to play Zverev in championship match
Second seed Novak Djokovic put in a flawless performance on Saturday night for his second win of the day at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, ruthlessly dispatching eighth seed Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-0 to reach the final in just 59 minutes.
The Serbian finished off a rain-delayed quarter-final earlier in the day over Juan Martin del Potro. Djokovic is through to his first ATP World Tour final since winning his opening tournament of the season in Doha (d. Murray). He remains unbeaten in Rome semi-finals (8-0) and improves to 41-6 at this event as he moves within one match of his fifth Rome title.
“This is undoubtedly my best performance of this year and maybe even longer. I'm overjoyed and happy with every minute that I spent on the court today. It was a perfect match. Everything that I intended to do, I have done it and even more,” said Djokovic. “There's not much to say except that I am so grateful to experience something like this, because I have been waiting and working for it for a long time."
Awaiting Djokovic in the final is 16th seed and #NextGenATP German Alexander Zverev, who defeated John Isner. Djokovic will look to win his 31st ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, while Zverev is competing in his first Masters 1000 final. The Rome final marks their first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.
“He's a nice guy and someone that I like. I have seen him grow up. I know his older brother. It's amazing to see 10, 12 years ago, when he was only a boy going around with his racquet, and now we are going to play in the final of one of the biggest events in the world,” said Djokovic. “It's a great beginning of his professional career he has had so far and he deserves to be in the final, but I'm going to make sure he doesn't get his hands on that trophy tomorrow. I'll at least try.”
Djokovic finished the day with 14 winners to a tidy six unforced errors. In stark contrast, the normally consistent Thiem hit 17 unforced errors to eight winners. The serve stats are perhaps the most telling, with Thiem winning just 13 of 37 points on serve. Djokovic won nearly 75 per cent of his serve points (31/43).
Despite the loss, Thiem has plenty of positives to take from his clay-court season so far. The 23-year-old Austrian produced a brilliant performance on Friday to defeat Rafael Nadal and end the Spaniard’s unbeaten streak on clay this season at 17 matches.Thiem has continued to make it to the weekend at clay-court events in 2017, winning in Rio de Janeiro (d. Carreno Busta) and finishing runner-up at Barcelona and Madrid (both l. Nadal) before his semi-final finish this week.
“It was the first time for me to play at such a high level for three weeks or more, and today I paid the price for that a little bit,” said Thiem. “I was already a little bit tired in the end of the match against Sam Querrey. I surprised myself by how I went out yesterday, but also knew it's not going to be like that forever.”
Djokovic started the opening set with a break of serve and a primal yell for a 2-0 lead. The backhands that Thiem painted the lines with against Nadal found themselves consistently landing just wide. The Austrian was unable to get any traction on his forehand, failing to hit a single winner on that wing in the set as Djokovic continued to move him from side to side. Thiem avoided a bagel by holding at 0-5, but Djokovic comfortably grabbed the early lead in the next game.
The second set was nearly identical to the first set as Djokovic continued to bully Thiem in the baseline rallies. The crowd urged Thiem on with applause and by chanting his name, but the Serbian gave them little chance to get involved. Djokovic broke Thiem for the third consecutive time to lead 5-0 and a strong serve on his first match point swiftly wrapped up the contest.
“It's really tough for me to play against Novak because he doesn't give me any time. I don't really like to play against him, because he has a game style which doesn't fit me at all,” said Thiem. “He was there from the first point and was pushing himself. I was expecting that from him, but couldn't really do anything against it because I was empty.
“I was not mentally on the level I should be against these opponents,” he added. “It happens from time to time if you play a lot of matches. And if it happens against a guy like Novak, a score like 6-1, 6-0 is the logical outcome.”