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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Friday, May 17, 2024


The 2017 Rome champion Alexander Zverev ended the fairy-tale run of Alejandro Tabilo 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 reach his third career Rome final.

Photo credit: Mike Hewitt/Getty

Befuddled by backspinning drop shots in the first set, Alexander Zverev delivered booming response.

Playing with poise and penetrating power, Zverev finished the fairy-tale run of Alejandro Tabilo 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 to march into his third career Rome final.

More: Break Ups & Love Matches

The 2017 Rome champion Zverev advanced to his 11th career Masters 1000 final, equaling compatriot Boris Becker for most Masters 1000 final appearances by a German man since the series began in 1990.

"I mean, look, I didn't play well, but he was the reason why I didn't play well," Zverev told the media in Rome. "He came out hitting the ball extremely hard. A lot of dropshots. Playing extremely aggressive. He didn't let me play. I have to give credit to him for not allowing me to play my game.

"I was happy to kind of hang in in the second set. I thought that the second set he also played better than me. But I hung in there. Kind of changed in the tiebreak, the momentum changed since then. Obviously happy I kind of ran away with it in the third set."

World No. 5 Zverev, the lone Top 10 man still standing in the field, will face either 14th-seeded American Tommy Paul or another Chilean, 21st-seeded Nicolas Jarry, in Sunday’s final. Zverev is 4-2 lifetime vs. Jarry and has lost booth meetings to Paul.

Zverev is playing for his 22nd career championship, including his sixth Masters 1000 crown.

This is Zverev's first ATP 1000 final since the 2022 Madrid title match and he did it while playing with a finger injury.

"My finger's pretty big. I think I tore a capsule, from what I understood," Zverev said. "The one here. Don't ask me. I tore something. I don't know what it is. But I didn't break any bones, which is good. I did the x-ray yesterday. Yeah, my bones are fine. That's why I could play today. I managed the pain with pain killers, all of that.

"The finger is still very, very big. It was manageable. Obviously I'm happy that I could manage today."

The victory ends the left-handed Chilean’s Cinderella run in Rome that saw him shock the tennis world with his stunning 6-2, 6-3 dismantling of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Sunday that was one of the most surprising setbacks of Djokovic’s Rome career. Tabilo backed it up out-dueling Karen Khachanov 7-6(5), 7-6(10) in the fourth round to join Jarry as the first Chileans to reach an ATP 1000 semifinal since Fernando Gonzalez back in 2009.

Playing for his third Rome final, Zverev carried an impressive 17-0 record vs. left-handers since the 2023 Roland Garros last year and was bidding for his 11th career Masters 1000 final.

None of that mattered much to maiden Masters 1000 semifinalist Tabilo.

Exploiting the 2017 Rome champion’s commitment to deep court positioning, Tabilo gave Zverev a taste of what was in store, dabbing a brilliant forehand drop shot winner for double break point.

Hammering his lefty topspin forehand into the corner, Tabilo rattled out an error earning the first break and a 3-1 lead just 13 minutes into this semifinal.

Though the Toronto-born Chilean doesn’t serve as big Zverev’s jolting serves, Tabilo understands how to mix spins and speeds of his serves and was applied the sharp slider serve, short in the box, to leave Zverev lunging at times.

Tabilo erased two break points backing up the break for 4-1.

Zverev needed to hold but got more misery instead. Holding a triple break point lead, Tabilo rocked a forehand return winner down the line breaking at love and celebrating his 5-1 lead with a lion’s roar.

Serving for the set, Tabilo closed with a flurry of fantastic fluttering drop shots.

If you’re a fan of finesse as we are—-check out the three drop shot winners Tabilo conjured to close the opening set and leave Zverev with the haunted expression of a man boxing a ghost.

First, Tabilo carved out consecutive brilliant backhand drop shot winners that softly settled in the dirt a few feet from the net for set points.

On his second set point, Tabilo was actually moving backward behind the baseline when he flicked a forehand drop winner that floors Zverev—-and surely would have made magical misanthrope Marcelo Rios, the Chilean former world No. 1 who sometimes texts Tabilo supportive messages—proud.

Tabilo tore through a five game run racing through 10 of the last 12 points of the set to move to within one set of a maiden Masters 1000 final.

The world No. 32 won 80 percent of his first serve points and more than doubled Zvervev’s winner total—10 to 4—in the opening set.

Zverev held to halt his five-game slide and start the second set.

World No. 5 Zverev amped up his aggression on serve holding strong for a 3-2 second-set lead.

Seventy minutes into the match, Zverev saw Tabilo creeping closer to return a second serve. The German went for more and double faulted to face a break point. Zverev saved break point with a big serve and forward attack, eventually holding for 4-3.

Pressed to 30-all in the next game, Tabilo stung the center stripe with an ace. Zverev argued the ball was wide, but chair umpire Greg Allensworth correctly ruled the ace touched the line. That serve helped Tabilo level after eight games.

The Auckland champion stamped a love hold to force the tiebreaker after 95 minutes.

A jittery Zverev opened with his fifth double fault to cede the mini break. Tabilo netted a backhand giving back the mini break on the third point.

Grinding through one of the longest rallies of the set, Zverev drew a netted backhand to go up a mini break at 4-3. The depth of Zverev’s drives helped him stretch his lead to 6-3.

Running down a drop shot, Zverev blocked a reply into the open court converting his second set point to force a final set after one hour, 45 minutes.

As rally length increased, the weight of Zverev’s deep drives took a toll on Tabilo. Zverev dropped a crosscourt backhand off the sideline to help gain triple break point in the third game of the decider.

Tabilo saved the first two break points, but risked a big second serve and double faulted away the break on the third break point. Zverev edged ahead 2-1.

Controlling the center of the court, Zverev zapped an ace backing up the break at 15 for 3-1.

The edge had come off the Chilean’s game and Tabilo was struggling to end points. Trying to serve-and-volley, Tabilo bricked a high backhand volley giving up a second break and 4-1 lead to the German.

Serving for his third Rome final, Zverev slammed down his 10th ace ace closing in two hours, 17 minutes with a primal scream.


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