By Jane Voigt
Washington D.C. — Alexander “Sascha” Zverev dominated the men’s singles final at Citi Open on Sunday, preventing any chance Alex De Minaur might have had to upset the favored German. The win marks his second consecutive title here.
“You come here, knowing you have a few points to defend but still come out here to win,” Zverev began, referring to the 500 points he won last year and would have lost had he not won today. “It’s great. It shows mental strength as well and a little bit of maturity. I had a great tournament and played a lot of great players; it was a fantastic week for me.”
This is Zverev’s fourth title in five final appearances this year and his 9th title overall It also marks his 41st match win for the season, the most on the ATP tour. He also becomes the first player to win back-to-back titles at Citi Open since Juan Martin del Potro in 2008-2009.
“He was too good today; he came out blazing,” De Minaur said. “I had done everything I could to recover, but was probably a step slow. He also has a massive serve and he really tries to dictate play with his backhand. I’ll sit back and learn from this. Next time hopefully it’ll be a different outcome.”
The Australian native had battled until after 10 p.m. Saturday night in his semifinal against Andrey Rublev, saving four match points in the second. The sudden change from a night match to a match in the blazing D.C. sun would have been a shock to any other player across the net from Zverev.
“I’m really proud of myself,” De Minaur said. “I played so very high-level matches, which are new experiences for me.”
Before and after his matches, De Minaur checked in with his mentor Lleyton Hewitt. “I kept in touch with him,” Alex said. De Minaur, an Australian by birth, was born to a father from Uruguay and a mother from Spain. Because Alex trains in Alicante, Spain, the entire family pulled up their roots from Sydney and mover there, too.
Donald Dell, the co-founder along with John Harris of this Washington D.C. tournament 50 years ago, was recognized for his myriad contributions to the tournament and tennis, during the awards presentation. The trophy that was presented to Zverev and will be awarded to future champions is now called the “Donald Dell” trophy.
“It’s a great honor to be the first one to lift this trophy up,“ Zverev said. “Also winning this tournament on its 50th anniversary makes me very happy. It was a special week for me.”
Dell said on court that Zverev was “the future of tennis” and is “gaining of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.”
“It’s great to hear these things from him. He’s obviously extremely respected,” Zverev said. “In our sport he is a [member of the] Hall of Fame. But not only am I the future of tennis but all the other semifinalists are the future of tennis. They are all younger than me. Alex is going to have an incredible career.”
As Zverev alluded to, the final and entire tournament really was a special one for those younger players who continually try to edge their way up the rankings as pressure from the top remains relentless.
Zverev at 21 and De Minaur at 19 were the youngest finalist on the ATP World Tour since 20-year-old Rafael Nadal defeated 19-year-old Novak Djokovic in the Indian Wells in 2007. That Zverev rose to the top this week, after countless delays, an emotional and inaugural singles match against his older brother Mischa, and swings in weather conditions, only points to his competitive nature and its strength.
Zverev can no longer be considered an outlier, when accessing his place at the top of the game. He’s not a member of the so-called Big Four, which has lost its punch of late except when it comes to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer who have won six of the last seven Grand Slams; however, Zverev’s achievements can be raised in conversations that include those men who have dominated tennis for over a decade. He has not transcended the sport the way Federer and Nadal have as international celebrities. However, he is on that track.
“I think it’s natural that the higher you get in the rankings the more people look at you and want to play you and play you at their best,” Zverev said. “So, I think the top guys always have to play their best. But Roger and Rafa are still the best out there. They’re still winning the Grand Slams and the biggest titles. I haven’t won a Grand Slam yet. So saying that I’m their level wouldn’t be fair to them.”
Zverev will fly to Toronto tonight and will celebrate today’s victory on board with a glass of orange juice.