Rome SF preview and prediction: Zverev vs. Isner

It will be a showdown between Saddlebrook (Tampa, Fla.) training mates and occasional doubles partners when Alexander Zverev and John Isner battle for a place in the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Saturday afternoon.

Zverev leads the head-to-head series 2-0, having prevailed 6-4, 6-2 last fall in Shanghai and 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-6(5) at the Miami Masters. In the latter contest, the fast-rising German saved three match points before surviving a two-hour and 38-minute thriller.

Isner had to get through another deciding tiebreaker in order to give himself one more shot at Zverev. Following victories this week over Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Florian Mayer, and Stan Wawrinka, the 6’10” American outlasted Marin Cilic 7-6(3), 2-6, 7-6(2) on Friday. This run has come mostly out of nowhere for Isner, who had been a modest 9-8 in 2017 prior to Rome and had not played since mid-April in Houston (lost to Ernesto Escobedo in the third round).

“It doesn’t matter what the surface; I feel I can play well on all surfaces,” Isner said. “Nothing changes for me. Whether I’m playing on grass, hard, or clay, it’s the same recipe. I’m going to serve and hold my serve a lot. I can hold my serve in mud out there, really. So I like my serve no matter the surface. It just so happens to be that this week I’m sort of putting it together. Clay can be a great surface for me.”

It has been Zverev’s best surface this season. The 20-year-old is a stellar 24-9 overall and an especially outstanding 13-3 on clay, with a title in Munich and a quarterfinal showing in Madrid in addition to this Rome performance. Zverev punched his ticket to the last four by beating Kevin Anderson, Viktor Troicki, Fabio Fognini, and Milos Raonic, surrendering just a single set to Anderson in the process.

“Against Sascha, it’s an extremely tough match,” Isner assured. “I actually know him very well, since he was very young. I train with him a bunch and I played him two times–and I’m 0-2. I would certainly love to get some revenge on him. But he’s playing remarkably well. It was only a matter of time, in my opinion, before he started having results like this.”

“I’m happy to be in the semis and playing John, who I know very well from our Saddlebrook days,” Zverev added. “We practice quite a lot together in the offseason and do quite a lot of stuff together. It’s going to be a great match. I’m excited for both of us.”

The world No. 17 should be excited, because–now that Rafael Nadal is out–he has been arguably been the best player in the field during this tournament along with Dominic Thiem. He also warmed up perfectly for this matchup by facing Raonic, whom he broke an impressive four times. Isner will be tougher, but Zverev should be able to get enough returns in play to pick up a third win in their head-to-head history.

Pick: Zverev in 3

69 Comments on Rome SF preview and prediction: Zverev vs. Isner

  1. I had a feeling Sascha could beat Raonic. He’s not tired!

    I am going with Sascha for the win in 3 sets,

  2. Isner has been the underdog all week and I’ve picked him anyway. Staying with Isner in 3.

  3. Isner has a much bigger serve, and when it’s on he’s almost impossible to beat, regardless of surface. He seems to be on a streak this week, and I think he takes this one even though I’d love to see Zverev makes his first masters final. Isner in 3.

  4. I thought it may be a Djoko vs Zverev/Isner final; but with a delay in the Djoko/Delpo QF, I think Thiem may have a chance to beat whoever comes out of that QF. I thought it may be a Isner/Delpo or Isner/Djoko final, but now it may be a battle of the youngsters in the final.

  5. H’mmm. Zverev is up a set as I write. So Zverev in 3 if it does not go to a 3rd set TB. If it does, then Isner in 3.

  6. Djoko must have played great. I still wouldn’t say he is ‘back’.

    Delpo thinks Rafa is the favourite for RG. It is good that Rafa is not facing djoko in Rome.

    • I’m with you, VR. It’s a bit soon to say Novak is back. I need to see more. Delpo was tired…and still missing a backhand weapon.

    • VR, from what I’ve seen of Djoko in the QF, it’s more Delpo being poor than Djoko being good. Djoko wasn’t doing anything special, he just kept the rally in play until Delpo missed.

      Delpo couldn’t even force Djoko out of position and so Djoko was very comfortable keeping the ball in play. TBH it’s a boring match, no spark at all.

      If Thiem is able to play like his QF here, he stands a good chance of beating Djoko to reach the final. The question is, has Thiem spent all his energy yesterday beating Rafa and has nothing left in his tank? I hope not.

  7. Nny,
    I’d love if Sascha could win tomorrow! !!! But Novak or Thiem is going to be a tough one.

    • First, I do not think Novak is back. Way too soon for that. But this is a good showing by him in the last tournament before RG. He has a good chance to win.

      I would love to see Thiem or Sascha win here. They have done well for themselves. If Murray continues to struggle at RG that could open up that part of the draw. Stan has also been M.I.A. and that has given the young guys an opportunity. It remains to be seen if Stan can play himself into good form in RG.

      • Stan is playing in Geneva. Maybe he’ll get himself tuned up (sort of) while there. But I think he’ll lose to Isner again! 😀

        I’m doubting Thiem will beat Novak. Beating Rafa probably knocked the stuffing out of him mentally and he’s got to be physically spent as well. Novak is just getting going.

        But it would be HUGE for Dominic to get a win over both Rafa AND his first win over Novak (I think it is)

        • I agree that it’s a tall order to beat Rafa and Novak back-to-back. That would be quite a feat. Some have said that Thiem will get tired, but I haven’t seen that yet. He seems to be even more energized with all of his wins.

          This is a chance for Novak to get a good result in the last tournament before RG. I don’t think one can say that a player is back when he has yet to win a title on clay. This is his opportunity.

          I guess StZn feels that he needs to play in another tournament right before RG. He must feel that he needs the match play.

          Whatever happens, it’s all good for Sascha. He has done well to get to his first Masters 1000 tournament. It may be a bridge too far to win, but this is a great result for him.

          • It’s going to be quite a feat if Sascha or Dominic win Rome – and that’s my hope. If Novak wins – good news for him with a confidence boost and perhaps motivation.

            But I really hope one of the new kids win their fist Masters!!!

    • I have been saying the same but rc is still sceptical. I think that match with Rafa at Madrid has brought back the old fire.

      • When he lifts the Rome trophy tomorrow…i’ll admit he’s extremely dangerous. But the two he has left to beat here are not hardened warrior’s in these situations.

        Come on, Thiem, figure this out!

  8. There’s fire in his eyes. ..I’m not ready to say he is back but he’s not going to lose to Thiem.

    He’s into it, Novak is.

    • Yes, Novak has come out ready to take fien Thiem. He does have that look in his eyes. He’s not letting Thiem into this match. I also think we can see one more time what it takes out of a player to beat Rafa. Thiem had to play his best to take out Rafa. It looks like he’s out of gas.

      Novak needs to win a title before I will say that he’s back.

  9. TBH I find Thiem quite one dimensional – big serve, big FH, quite good SHBH and good speed around the court. He’s a big hitter but doesn’t have much varieties, just hard hitting.

    He’s not going to beat Djoko by rallying with him, unless he can play like Stan. I think this SF will end within an hour. He has no idea how to play Djoko, his coach doesn’t help him much, too busy dealing with Rafa but forget there’s a Djoko lurking around waiting to beat him.

    • Yep, Team Thiem has been laser fo used on how to beat Rafa on clay.

      Thiem has lost to Novak I think 4 times…never a win. Now he has to
      Learn to play Novak. If this was a different venue and no the Rome SF, maybe Novak wouldn’t be as psyched.

      But there’s no way he’s losing to Thiem. I’ll be happy if team can make it competitive at some point.

      I feel sorry for Thiem’s mum.

    • luckystar says AT 6:26 PM: “…his coach doesn’t help him much, too busy dealing with Rafa…”

      Only beating Rafa gives a player a meal ticket for life. LOL

    • I actually agree about Thiem. I take nothing away from him, but there is this one-dimensional aspect to his game. He hits hard, harder, hardest. It was enough to get past s tired Rafa, but won’t be good enough to beat a Novak who is dialed in and playing smart, precise tennis using all of his considerable variety.

      I think that’s why I haven’t warmed up to Thiem. I respect his talent and ambition and persevering to be better, but ball bashing is not enough if you want to be at the top in this sport.

  10. Looks like Zverev is in better shape right now than Thiem to give Djoko more of a challenge in the final.

    We see how hard it is to make B2B Masters finals, not to mention winning them. Zverev will be no.11 in the rankings now and if he wins the final, he will reach top 10, at no.10 – not bad for a 20 yo. He is doing better than Kygrios so far this year.

    • Lol, Stan looks so far away from his peak! He has only a week to transform himself and I can’t imagine him making himself a contender at this point!

      it’s possible 😀 maybe

  11. Lol, Djokovic and his loud loud come ons against someone he is pummeling. And then he wonders why the crowd doesn’t cheer for him.

  12. There’s not question that Novak is playing much better right now than he has all year. However, Thiem is merely a shadow of the player he was yesterday against Rafa… It doesn’t even look physical to me- it looks like he just do any have the competitive desire to win today… It’s disappointing to me.

    • It should not come as a surprise to se Thiem so flat in this match. That is what beating Rafa on clay does to a player. Thiem has nothing left. He put it all out there on the court yesterday. Look at what it took for him to beat a tired Rafa who was not at his best,

      Novak is playing very well, but Thiem has nothing left.

  13. The first SF was way more interesting than this one. Even though Isner is known for his big serve, at least he ventures to the net to hit some nice volleys and he has also improved his ground strokes. Isner/Zverev played with more varieties and the match was more competitive than this one.

    Why is Djoko getting the same type of players the whole tournament, i.e. players who engage in rallies all the time with Djoko. Bendene, Agut, Delpo and now Thiem, all were trying to outrally Djoko and nothing else! They probably were thinking it’s a subpar Djoko that they were facing!

    I hope Zverev doesn’t fall into the same trap; at least moves forward and hits some nice volleys or does some S&V.

    • I agree with you, Lucky- Zverev should be better suited to take on Nole. He has more tools than the other guys Nole has faced thus far, to go along with his baseline power. It’s just a question of will he make use of those tactics and not just try to out rally Novak the whole match… We shall see! Unless Thiem manages to wake up and make a miraculous turn around (doubtful).

  14. Can’t imagine, Rome final is Djoko’s second final this season, after playing in seven events so far.

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