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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, August 22, 2021


Olympic gold-medal champion Alexander Zverev rolled by Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-3 in the Cincinnati final for his 11th straight win and fifth Masters crown.

Photo credit: Getty

Alexander Zverev wrapped his arm around buddy Andrey Rublev as the pair posed for the pre-final photo.

That was the last bit of benevolence Zverev displayed today.

More: Can Anyone Stop Djokovic from Grand Slam?

A ruthless Zverev rolled Rublev 6-2, 6-3 in the Cincinnati final scoring his 11th straight win for his fifth career Masters 1000 championship.

Empowered by his run to the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, Zverev was comfortable and commanding collecting his fourth title of the season. Two of those four titles have come at Masters events in Madrid and Cincinnati.

Give Zverev an hour and he’ll give you a title.

Winless in six prior main-draw matches in Cincinnati, a ruthless Zverev won 26 of 28 first-serve points, including 12 straight points on serve to open the match, in a near-flawless 59-minute performance.

“I can’t really say this was one of my favorite weeks of the year before this week—not winning single match in seven years—but it is definitely one of my favorite tournaments of the year now and hopefully will be in the next 10 to 15 years of my career as well,” Zverev told the crowd during the trophy presentation.

Breaking in the opening game relaxed the US Open finalist.

"Obviously I felt well from the beginning," Zverev told the media afterward. "Broke him the first game, and I think then the match went my way, I have to say, quite a lot and quite fast. Obviously very happy with that, because Andrey, once he gets the rhythm, once he gets going in a match, he's a very dangerous player and can beat anybody. He showed that yesterday. Obviously very happy with how things went."

Facing his former junior doubles partner, Zverev unleashed vicious velocity on first serve to set up imposing first strikes seizing his 17th career title. Zverev maintained his mastery of his buddy beating Rublev for the fifth time in as many meetings sweeping all 11 sets they’ve played.

Familiarity fuels Zverev's dominance of this match-up: He respects Rublev's point-ending power which compels him to assert aggression.

"We played so many times in our lives against each other; we’ve been playing since 11 years old and we know each other’s games," Zverev told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj afterward. "He’s one of the most powerful players on Tour.

"I know I have to play my best tennis and that’s the mentality I go into it. If I don’t play my best tennis he has the shots to beat anybody. If you go into it with that mentality you have to play aggressive yourself, you have to hit through the court yourself it either works out well or it doesn’t and for me it did today."

Rublev dropped serve five times, including the opening game of the match, and struggled to impact the 6’6” German’s forehand wing. Zverev zapped 16 winners against only six unforced errors, while Rublev was much more erratic, especially when stretched on the run, hitting 18 winners and 19 errors.

“I want to say a big congrats to Sascha for the things he achieved is something unreal,” Rublev said. “Winning so many titles, he’s beating all the top players. And we grew up together and it’s something unbelievable to imagine that we were growing up together and we’re here playing finals is something both of us dream and now we’re living our dreams. It’s an amazing feeling.”

In a match of Olympic gold-medal champions—Zverev beat Novak Djokovic and Karen Khachanov to win the singles gold; Rublev partnered Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to strike mixed gold—the German’s vicious velocity and precision on the fast blue court set up his first strike.

A red-hot Zverev extended his winning streak to 11 matches becoming the first German man since Boris Becker in 1985 to raise the Cincinnati title.

Tennis Express

The fourth-seeded Russian figured to be fresher as Zverev battled two hours, 41 minutes edging second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in a semifinal thriller last night, pausing at one point to leave the court and vomit before returning to complete the comeback conquest.

None of that mattered much to Zverev who concluded a crackling crosscourt rally bending a backhand sharply to break in the opening game.

Crunching clean strikes, Zverev was not missing much and Rublev was left trying to force the issue. The Russian rapped a flat forehand into net as Zverev scored his second straight break for a 3-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After the Olympic gold-medal champion threw down successive love holds to open, Rublev responded with strong serving to finally get on the board after five games. Zverev streaked through his third straight love hold for 5-1 after 20 minutes.

Twenty-three minutes into the match, Rublev won his first point on the German’s serve on a net-cord shot that dribbled over. Tested to deuce for the first time all day, Zverev ended the first set streaking forward to knock off a forehand volley. Zverev served 75 percent, won 15 of 20 points played on his serve and snuffed out any hope of a Rublev uprising.

It was the German’s 10th consecutive set over the Russian. Given that ignominious streak, you can’t fault Rublev for feeling debilitating déjà vu all over again. Zverev broke at 15 to start the second set, marching through eight of the first nine points for a 2-0 lead.

When Rublev pumped an ace to hold, the frustrated Russian bounced a ball off the court.

Forty-five minutes into the match, Rublev looked haunted by Zverev’s unerring assault. The red-haired Russian tried to amp up his forehand but scattered a pair of forehand errors as Zverev went up a double break for 4-1.

The third seed’s first stumble of the day came when he double-faulted away the break serving for the title at 5-3. Zverev changed racquets after the double fault, but Rublev couldn’t capitalize on the lapse missing two forehands in a row in the ninth game.

Zverev rocked a backhand return down the line for double championship point. Rublev netted a backhand to end it.

"I know you want your first Masters win and I’m sure it’s gonna come," Zverev told Rublev. "Not only a Masters win will come, but also hopefully Grand Slam trophies and everything after that.

"You’re an incredible player, you’re an incredible person and one of the best friends I have on Tour since we were basically 11 years old. In juniors he used to kick my ass all the time. I didn’t appreciate it that much… I’m sure this is only the beginning and we’re gonna play big matches in the future as well."


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