ZVEREV’S BACK-TO-BACK TITLE BID OFF TO FLYING START
Alexander Zverev got his Rome title defense under way at the Italian Open on Wednesday with a straight-sets win over Italy’s Matteo Berrettini as the German bids for backto-back Masters triumphs after success in Madrid.
The second seed eased past Berrettini, 7-5, 6-2, to join former winners Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the third round at the Foro Italico as Austrian Dominic Thiem fell at the first hurdle.
“It’s not easy to come from Madrid where there’s a lot of altitude and it’s very fast,” said Zverev.
But sixth seed Thiem crashed out just a week after inflicting a first clay-court defeat on Nadal in over a year in Madrid which cost the Spaniard the world number one ranking.
The 24-year-old destroyed his racket in fury as he suffered his first loss to Italian Fabio Fognini in three meetings, sink- ing, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
For rising German star Zverev it was a 10th consecutive win after back-to-back title runs at Munich and Madrid.
Zverev trailed 0/40 in the third game but rolled off five points to hold. He broke in the 11th game and later served out the set.
Berrettini turned on his right ankle at 1-2 in the second set and looked in difficulty, allowing Zverev to push through.
The 21-year-old from Ham- burg next meets Britain’s Kyle Edmund, who beat Djokovic in the Madrid second round, and got past Lucas Pouille, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), in Rome on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, clay king Nadal was relieved to be back winning as he builds toward the French Open, racing to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.
“After a loss in Madrid, it’s important to come back strong,” said Nadal, eyeing an eighth Rome title and first since 2013. —