Alexander Zverev is the first player into the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final with a three-set win over big server John Isner, battling for two sets before taking completely taking control and dominating the decider.
Zverev booked the match with a final 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-1 scoreline, and now holds a 3-0 career record over the American. The important win will grant the 20-year-old a place in the top 5 of the Race to London, and will make him reach his best ranking of 14th in the world next week. Winning the tournament could allow him to enter the ATP top 10 for the first time in career.
An important break gives Zverev the first set
The first set started with a pattern that would stay the same for the most part of the match. The first four games saw both players very comfortable on serving, with only two points dropped by the American in the opening game, and three quick holds to love to follow.
The fifth game proved to become decisive for the entire set. From 40-30 up, Isner failed to succeed in two serve-and-volley attempts, dropping his serve to give the German an important lead in a set that hadn’t seen him drop a single point on his serve so far. As to prove it, Zverev performed a quick hold to 15 to consolidate the lead.
From then on, the American found his good serving consistency again, without giving any more chances to the younger player to widen the gap.
Zverev, however, matched up to the good performance of the first part of the set, and with another hold to love he ended a set that had seen him losing only two points on his service games. Just one wrong step in a generally consistent game had cost the American the set, booked by Zverev with a 6-4 scoreline.
After a balanced set, Isner wins the tiebreak to force into a decider
The second set started as equally balanced, with both players very solid on their serve, giving each other very few chances to step in and take the lead in the score.
Once again, it had been the young German the one who managed to be the closest to a chance to break, as he rallied back from 40-15 down in the seventh game to push the score to the only deuce of the set. An ace and a good serve-and-volley, tactic that Isner chose frequently during the match and that often granted him to score important points, saved the moment from the American and kept the set back on serve.
Isner showed to be more aggressive than in the first set, but Zverev proved to be more solid during the rallies, especially the longer ones.
With both players unable to get any chances to break the balance, the second set needed to be sorted with a tie-break.
For the first time in the entire match, the American seemed able to put some pressure on his younger opponent. A backhand error and a double fault cost the German two crucial points in the breaker, and Isner took full advantage of it, serving his way to a quick 5-0 lead.
Zverev immediately recovered, hitting two good first serves and benefitting of an error from Isner to diminish the gap, but another flawless serve-and-volley from the American granted him three set points. Zverev saved the first two with other good first serves, but Isner took control of the rally to convert the third one and forced the match into a decider.
Zverev takes an early lead, stays consistent to win the match
The third set saw Zverev serving first for the first time in the match, and the German didn’t seem affected from the just lost tie-break, starting with a very quick hold to love. He gained the momentum, and kept playing aggressively as Isner went to serve, controlling the rallies and putting pressure on the American.
As it happened in the first set, it had been his serve-and-volley to betray Isner; a failed attempt gifted Zverev of two break points. He wasted the first one with an error, but surpassed Isner at the net with a lob return on the second one, converting it and signing an opening break to start the set. Three aces and a good first serve quickly closed the third game, and gave the German a 3-0 lead.
A solid game on serve brought Isner back on track, and a flawless return game immediately gave him three break points, his first of the match. Zverev once more showed not to suffer the pressure. He hit an ace to save the first break point, and forced Isner to hit two errors by controlling the rallies to bring the game to deuce. With another ace and another error from the American, Zverev went on to hold, and secure a 4-1 lead.
From then on, the German never lost the control of the match, and gained two more break points in the following game. Isner’s forehand ended in the net on the second one, after a powerful return from his opponent, and Zverev got the chance to serve for the match.
Quickly 40-0 up, the German seemed to feel the pressure for a moment, hitting an error and a double-fault to waste the first two match points. A well-played rally, however, converted the third, and the 20-year-old signed the win with a final 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-1 score line to reach his first final of the year and the first in the Masters 1000 circuit.
Match in numbers
Both Zverev and Isner proved to be very solid on serve - of course helped by their height -, and the numbers of the match confirmed it, with a 72% of first serves in for the German and 79% for the American.
The 20-year-old had been more decisive with his first serve, with 88% of the points won (to Isner’s 69%), while there was more balance in the points won with the second serve (57% for Zverev, 53% for Isner).
Generally speaking, Zverev showed more consistency throughout the match, and the numbers confirmed it, with 41 winners against 15 unforced errors in total. His opponent showed more moments of struggle, resulting in a record of 34 winners to 32 unforced errors.
Alexander Zverev will meet the winner between Novak Djokovic and Dominc Thiem - who had previously defeated a Rafael Nadal in a flawless form on clay - for winning his fourth career title in Rome and third of the year. The Austrian leads their head to head with 4 victories to 1, and had won all their previous encounters on clay. With the world number 2 and four-time Rome champion, it would be the first meeting in career.