ALEXANDER Zverev became the first man in nearly a decade to win consecutive titles at the Citi Open, overpowering Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-4 in the hard-court tournament final Sunday.
Zverev hit six aces, topping 130 mph, and never faced a break point en route to his ninth career ATP title and third of 2018.
“You really deserved it,” de Minaur told Zverev during the trophy ceremony. “Played too good today.”
He improved to 16-2 for his career at Washington’s tuneup for the U.S. Open. Juan Martin del Potro won the event twice in a row in 2008-09. Germany’s Zverev is 21, and Australia’s de Minaur is 19, making for the youngest final on the ATP World Tour since 20-year-old Rafael Nadal beat 19-year-old Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells, California, in 2007.
“I’m sure these kind of trophies will be in your hands very soon,” Zverev told de Minaur.
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Even though Sunday’s finalists are close in age, Zverev held quite an advantage in size and experience.
He is 6-foot-6, ranked No. 3 and one of only five active players with at least three Masters titles (the others are Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray). De Minaur is 5-foot-11, ranked 72nd and yet to win a tour-level title of any sort.
“Sascha Zverev is the future of pro tennis,” said tournament co-founder and chairman Donald Dell, using Zverev’s nickname.
“He’s chasing Federer and Nadal for the No. 1 spot.”
Zverev — who beat his older brother, Mischa, in the third round — put on a dominant performance on a steamy afternoon with the temperature hitting 90 degrees. The sun was a contrast to all of the rain during the week that jumbled the schedule and led to Andy Murray’s withdrawal before what was supposed to be a quarterfinal against de Minaur.
He broke de Minaur’s serve in the opening game and again to lead 4-0 after all of 15 minutes, while they would go on to play for another full hour, the outcome seemed rather clear from that moment.
Zverev won 26 of 29 points when he put a first serve in, and 37 of 48 serving points in all. Of the 11 he lost, four came via double-faults. He finished the first set with a flourish, smacking a pair of aces at 123 mph and 114 mph. When de Minaur was serving, meanwhile, Zverev generated 11 break points, converting three.
Zverev’s booming groundstrokes were often too much to handle for de Minaur, whose body language often told the tale of how things were going. With both at the net early in the second set, Zverev took the point with a crisp volley, and de Minaur rolled his eyes.
A couple of points later, de Minaur pushed a forehand long, dropped his head and screamed at himself. After a 125 mph ace flew past, de Minaur nodded, as if to say: “Yep, that’s good.”
Zverev was a lot less demonstrative, although when he struck a down-the-line forehand passing shot to break for a 2-1 edge in the second set, he looked toward the spot in his stands where the man who taught him tennis and still coaches him — his father, Alexander Sr. — was in a front-row seat and yelled, “Let’s go now!” while shaking his right fist.
Soon enough, the victory was complete, the latest step Zverev has taken in a steady march toward the top of his sport.