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Rome champion Zverev eyes French Open but wary of Djokovic ‘at his best’

Alexander Zverev is gunning for the French Open after winning his second Rome Open title on Sunday, but warned of the ever-present danger posed by defending Roland Garros champion, Novak Djokovic.

World number five Zverev, also Foro Italico champion in 2017, comfortably won his sixth Masters 1000 title by beating Nicolas Jarry 6-4, 7-5 and is eyeing glory at the Paris clay-court Grand Slam, which gets underway next weekend.

Zverev has endured a bittersweet relationship with Roland Garros.

In the 2022 semi-finals he suffered an awful ankle injury and was forced to quit, allowing Rafael Nadal to reach the final and win the last of his 22 Grand Slams. 

“In general it’s always the tournament that I mark down in my calendar,” Zverev told reporters. 

“This year there’s no exception. That’s the one that I want to win, the one that I look for the most maybe throughout the year. I’m going to do everything I can this year.”

Zverev claimed his first title of the year and first since winning at Chengdu in September at the end of an unusual men’s Rome tournament in which a host of top names were either eliminated early or dropped out before the start of the event.

Six-time Rome champion Djokovic was dumped out in the third round by Zverev’s semi-final opponent, journeyman Alejandro Tabilo.

Last year’s winner Daniil Medvedev was stopped at the last-16 stage while Italian world number two Jannik Sinner and third-ranked Carlos Alcaraz both missed the tournament with injury.

“Nole (Djokovic) is going to be at his best. You’ll see. It’s just the way it is,” warned Zverev of Djokovic, a three-time French Open champion.

“The other two (Sinner and Alcaraz), they just depend on health. If they’re healthy, they’re two of the best players in the world, for sure, and there’s no question about it.”

Zverev succeeded in his 11th Masters final which equalled Boris Becker’s record for the most by a German since the series began in 1990.

Zverev’s title in the Italian capital seven years ago was the first of his career at this level and Sunday’s was his first since coming back from his ankle injury lay-off.

“It’s all about finding your rhythm. I’m happy that I did it here right before Roland Garros,” said Zverev.

“Hopefully I can take it into Roland Garros and play some of my best tennis there, as well.”

Zverev comfortably beat Chile’s Jarry, who could not repeat his quarter-final and semi-final heroics against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Tommy Paul in reaching his first Masters final, in one hour and 41 minutes.

Jarry ‘very motivated’

The German dropped just five points on his serve in a performance which showed a clear gap in class and gave him his first 1000-level title since triumphing in Cincinnati in August 2021.

“My feeling right now is I want to go to Roland Garros and play better because I know I can play better and do good there,” Jarry told reporters.

“I’m very motivated. That’s how I am right now.”

Earlier, Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini gave Italian fans something to cheer after beating Coco Gauff and Erin Routliffe to the women’s doubles title.

Unseeded Errani and Paolini made the Foro Italico crown roar by beating reigning US Open singles champion Gauff and Routliffe 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

Home supporters had been denied the chance to see Sinner and Matteo Berrettini play, with the former Wimbledon finalist also not fit enough to take part in his home city.

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