Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2017 Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
That’s always been the fun part about staring ahead into the future, right?
You watch tennis day after day after day and, especially in men’s tennis in this past era of Roger Federer and co., always see mostly the same players triumph over and over. But then every once in a while, you get a new champion, maybe he/she is younger and full of promise and you think, “Hey maybe one day…”.
And that’s the thing: that “one day” always arrives pretty soon. In Rome this past week, we got a face-to-face with the future. It’s already here. Smile, and say hi.
What other findings can we glean from the past week in the wonderful world of tennis?
Novak Djokovic is back, but he’s not back you know?!
As you see from above, that the Serb was overjoyed and overwhelmed from reaching the Rome Masters final speaks to how trying the past likely year but definitely six months have been. Maybe he can get a healthy dose of realism and relativism from his performance in Rome? Sure, he had a lead of a few thousand points atop the World rankings but he’s still at No. 2. Sure, a final over a young Alexander Zverev is just the type of match he wouldn’t lose but he made the final.
He still only has one title to his name this year, but that doesn’t have to be a death sentence. New coach Andre Agassi can help with that.
The kids are all right
Speaking of Zverev, the German is the one who crashed Djokovic’s Italian party for a potential 31st Masters 1000 title. And today, the 20-year-old makes his debut inside the Top 10 world rankings. Zverev jumped on Djokovic from the jump, breaking the Serb when he couldn’t manage a first serve to open the match and forging ahead for a relatively routine win in two sets.
In beating Djokovic, Zverev became the youngest player to win a Masters 1000 event since the Serb himself. If his ensuing career is anything like Djokovic’s, then we’re in for a treat.
What does this mean for Roland Garros? It means it’s wide open.
On the women’s side, Elina Svitolina defeated the favoured Simona Halep in three sets by the final score of 4-6, 7-5 and 6-1. “Every single day, everyone is working very hard,” Svitolina said after the win. “They are waiting for these kind of moments when there is a right moment and the right day.”
For Svitolina, this was indeed a right day. Still just 22 years old, the native of Odessa, Ukraine, is now ranked a career-high No. 6 but the real number of importance right now is 1—as in, Svitolina currently ranks No. 1 in the road to Singapore for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals.
Many things can and will change before October but for now, it’s Svitolina in the driver seat. “I think I can be proud of myself for handling the pressure, because I played some tough matches here,” she said after Rome. “Today I needed to show that I am there and I want to win and I’m ready to do it.”
Yep. Just ask Halep, who was coming off a win in Madrid and hoping for the rare Madrid-Rome double that hasn’t happened in the WTA since Serena Williams in 2013. But the Romanian, with 47 total unforced errors, was simply too erratic to win the match against an opponent at the top of her powers.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG