The Younger gen make their mark with wins in Rome for Sascha & Elina

The ATP must be absolutely buzzin’ about this performance from Sascha Zverev last week. They have been plugging the Next Gen and the Next Gen Finals in Milan at the end of the season, so this will be music to their ears. At this rate, Zverev will be making an appearance in London at the O2 finals instead and I hope he does because he’s more than ready. He’s an absolute Boss! Will his body last the course of the season? Possibly not, many of his peers fail here and it’s understandable. At(just turned) 20, you would certainly forgive him were he to struggle at one stage or another. He might just surprise us though, he doesn’t look like a little boy out there, baby-faced yes but that’s as far as it goes. He ousted Djokovic in the final, the Serb was a hell of a lot better this week, particularly with his victories over Bautista Agut and then Delboy in the quarters. He is still not there though as the final proved. He wasn’t at his best and I very much doubt that he could have taken Zverev lightly! Not a chance! He hammered Dominic Thiem in the semi and looked class. Thiem had just taken Rafa out the previous day and also looked spent in fairness and probably gave Nole a helping hand. This looked one match too far for Rafa but that was largely due to Thiem’s brilliance. That backhand is the shot I enjoy watching the most right now in the men’s game, rip-a-roo! Always enjoy watching the Dominator, big fan! Thiem said after his defeat to Djoko that he felt tired, well I’m not surprised Dominic lad, you are over scheduling at the moment, please address this! Fognini put in an awesome performance against Muzza, taking the world number one out in the second round. The Fog then lost to Zverev, with the impending birth of his first child with Flavia in the back of his mind. Understandable that he might not have been on it that day and subsequently congrats to them both on their first son, Federico. John Isner put in a good week beating Ramos- Vinolas, Florian Mayer, Stan and Cilic. I always remember Isner saying he enjoyed playing on clay after he beat Fed in the Davis Cup, on the red stuff in Switzerland back in 2012. He said it enabled him more time, the American had taken Rafa to five at the French the previous year to back his claims. Useful operator, people just assume he can’t play on clay! Zverev stole the show with his performances though, dismantling Raonic and then wearing down Isner in the semis. The big game mentality was evident in the final, the serve causing all sorts of problems, especially the one out wide. The power off both wings is unreal and it means he can just pin his opponent back before cracking a winner. Clay certainly isn’t anywhere near his best surface for me and that tells you a lot. So did his tributes to Rafa and Djokovic after, saying Rafa was rightly the strong favourite for RG and how he has known Nole since he was 4. Djokovic was on the junior tour with Mischa, so they spent time together then. The Serb also practised with him from a young age at the slams when Sascha was a junior. There is obviously a close bond between them and he described Djokovic as ”one of the best guys on tour.”. It appears Sascha has the lot and I’m looking forward to seeing him win many slams.

Elina Svitolina beat Simona Halep in the Women’s final after the Romanian picked up an ankle injury in the first set. Halep has been looking supreme of late and as I always say, confidence goes a long way but the injury coupled with fatigue took their toll. If anything it probably takes a little pressure off for the French as this may well have an adverse effect on her conqueror. Don’t get me wrong this is another huge win for the 22-year-old Ukranian but as far as the French goes, I still think it might be a case of short term pain for long term gain! That’s Svitolina’s second Premier 5 event of the year along with the fact she currently leads the race to Singapore. Ruling her out would be stupid as a former winner of the juniors in Paris, but I’ve just got a hunch that the times not just yet. I still think her serve is attackable as Halep was showing early on. She has shown signs of looking mentally tougher in fairness and she held off Halep in the second set as she did against Karolina Pliskova in the quarters. The Czech’s movement was exposed at times here by the Ukrainian who is so consistent off the ground, it’s clear that Pliskova still has a fair bit of work to do to master clay for me. There were encouraging efforts from Kiki Bertens and Garbine Muguruza, the Spaniard injured her neck on the morning of the semi-final against Svitolina but says that she will be fine for Paris. Great effort from Venus yet again! The quarter’s here, beating Jo Konta and taking Muguruza close. She’s going to be eyeing up the grass in this form as she has been consistently decent this season. Sharapova and Kiki Mladenovic were early casualties, Kiki looked slightly off against Julia Goerges after her exertions the previous week in Madrid. Sharapova’s pull-out at a set all against Lucic-Baroni with a thigh injury came on the same day as the snub from Paris. Azarenka has also said today that she is looking to be ready for Wimbledon, which is a tournament earlier than initially planned but top news for the game nonetheless.

Andy Del Potro

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