Italian Open: Djokovic sets up Zverev final

Alexander “Sascha” Zverev became the youngest Masters Series finalist in a decade when he beat American veteran John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 at the Italian Open.

Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates after winning his semifinal match against John Isner, of the United States, at the Italian Open tennis tournament on Saturday.   -  AP

Alexander “Sascha” Zverev became the youngest Masters Series finalist in a decade when he beat American veteran John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 at the Italian Open on Saturday. Zverev, at 20, was the youngest on the ATP Tour since Novak Djokovic won Miami in 2007 at the age of 19.

Zverev will meet Djokovic, who demolished Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-0 in the second semifinal.

With tennis greats Rod Laver and Manolo Santana looking on at the Foro Italico, Zverev showed off an all-court game that has prompted many experts to predict he’ll reach No. 1 some day.

Zverev won most of the longer rallies, displayed a well-disguised drop shot, made precise volleys and even served bigger than Isner, who is usually one of the best servers on tour.

In the opening set, Zverev won 20 of his 22 points on serve to Isner’s 19 of 29, and over the course of the match he struck more aces- 12 to 8.

After losing a tight second set in which neither player dropped serve, Zverev responded by breaking at the first opportunity in the third.

Zverev improved to 3-0 in his career against the 24th-ranked Isner, who has been watching Zverev progress since they both trained at the Saddlebrook resort in Florida, when Isner was already a top pro and Zverev was an adolescent.

Zverev had already become the youngest Rome semifinalist since Rafael Nadal won the second of his seven Foro Italico titles at age 19 in 2006.

Zverev’s older brother, Mischa, is ranked 32nd, and his father, Alexander, is a former pro player and his coach.

DJOKOVIC THRASHES THIEM

Djokovic, who has suffered a fall from grace over the last year while wrestling with injuries and a lack of confidence, looked his old dominant self as he hammered the Austrian in virtuoso fashion.

Djokovic said that his mini masterpiece, carved out in just 59 minutes against Thiem who had ended Rafael Nadal's 17-match winning streak so thrillingly on Friday, was "by far" his best performance of a difficult year.

The quick workout against Thiem was just what Djokovic needed as it was his second match of the day, having completed a 6-1 6-4 win over Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in a rain-delayed quarterfinal carried over from Friday.

"Best by far, obviously," Djokovic said when asked on Sky Sports whether the win over world number seven Thiem, which saw him spray 14 winners and give up a mere six unforced errors, was his best in 2017.

"The closest I got to this level was the final against Andy (Murray) in Doha in the first week of the season (which Djokovic won). Otherwise, I've been struggling to find the right level and be consistent."

Earlier this month, the Serb had parted company with his entire coaching team in a bid to regain the form that had made him an untouchable world number one a year ago.