Djokovic Overcomes Zverev, Sets Alcaraz Clash In Cincy Final
The 36-year-old overcame Zverev 7-6(5), 7-5 in a baseline slugfest under the lights at the ATP Masters 1000 event, where the 23-time major champion Djokovic will next clash against World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz for a fourth time (1-2).
"In very few of [Sascha's] service games where I had chances, I think I played well, particularly five-all [after] he broke my serve to stay in the match," Djokovic said in his on-court interview. "I managed to bounce back, played a great game to break him again and seal the deal in the 12th game of the second set.
"I'm pleased. I think there's a few things I could've done better, but overall it's a straight-sets win against a great player in form, so I'm really happy."
In Djokovic and Zverev’s first meeting since the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals, both players brought a high level throughout the semi-final. An entertaining opening set featured Zverev surviving a 10-minute service game at 4-5 and later forcing a tie-break, where second seed Djokovic found greater consistency from his groundstrokes, converting his sixth set point to gain an advantage.
After being broken while serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, the 94-time tour-level titlist quickly recovered to earn a break of his own, closing the two-hour, four-minute contest in his ensuing service game. Djokovic lost just two points behind his first delivery in the second set and struck the ball with depth to improve to 8-4 in his Lexus ATPHead2Head series with the two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion.
Playing in his first tournament on U.S. soil since 2021, Djokovic has not dropped a set all week. He is bidding for his third title at the Western & Southern Open (2018, 2020) and a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 singles crown. If Djokovic wins his fourth title of 2023, he would become the oldest Cincinnati champion in the Open Era, surpassing Ken Rosewall (1970).
Djokovic first completed the Career Golden Masters in Cincinnati in 2018 and should he triumph Sunday he will have won all nine Masters 1000s three times, with the exception of Monte-Carlo, which he has won twice. No other player has won all nine Masters 1000s.
Sunday will be the Serbian’s record-extending 57th ATP Masters 1000 final. The Spaniard Alcaraz, who earlier rallied past Hubert Hurkacz, defeated Djokovic in a thrilling five-set Wimbledon final that lasted four hours, 43 minutes. Djokovic and Alcaraz are the only two players who have secured qualification for the season-finale Nitto ATP Finals, which the Belgrade native has won six times.
Although Djokovic cannot reclaim the No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking by winning the final, he can draw within a mere 20 points of Alcaraz. Given that the 20-year-old has 2,000 points to defend at the US Open, which Djokovic did not play last year, the Serbian would have a strong chance of reclaiming No. 1 after the Open if he can defeat Alcaraz in the Cincinnati title match.
Zverev, 26, suffered his first loss in Cincinnati since 2020, having won the event in 2021 and missing it last year due to injury. The World No. 17 slips to 38-20 this season. By reaching the semi-finals, Zverev has climbed two spots this week to eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, inside the cut for the Nitto ATP Finals.