Zverev beats De Minaur to defend Washington ATP crown

Germany’s Alexander Zverev celebrates after the win. (Reuters pic)

WASHINGTON: World number three Alexander Zverev won his second consecutive Washington Open title Sunday, defeating Australian teen Alex De Minaur 6-2, 6-4 in the youngest ATP final since 2007.

The 21-year-old German captured his ninth career ATP title, and third of the year after Munich and Madrid, at the US Open hardcourt tuneup event.

Zverev joined a list of back-to-back Washington champions that includes Americans Andre Agassi and Michael Chang and Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, the most recent prior winner to defend from 2008-09.

It was the second career ATP final for De Minaur, a 19-year-old from Sydney who lost his hometown title match to Daniil Medvedev in January.

Not since 20-year-old Rafael Nadal beat 19-year-old Novak Djokovic 11 years ago at Indian Wells had the combined ages of ATP finalists been so young. Not since Harold Solomon beat Guillermo Vilas in 1974 had a Washington final featured two players 21-or-under.

“This match could be the final for the next 15 years so I hope you really enjoyed it,” Zverev told spectators after the match, noting his first-ever ATP match with brother Mischa in the third round.

“This week has been so fortunate for memories. This was an experience we dreamed about playing in our backyard. It was a memorable experience for me.”

De Minaur, who saved four match points in beating Russian Andrey Rublev in the semi-finals, was trying to become the youngest ATP champion since Zverev at St. Petersburg in 2016.

The 72nd-ranked Aussie will jump to a career-best 45th in Monday’s rankings.

“It has been a really special week for me,” De Minaur said. “(Zverev) deserved it, played too good today.”

Zverev is of Russian heritage, his family moving to Hamburg in 1991, six years before Alexander was born, while De Minaur was born to a Spanish mother and Uruguayan father and grew up in Spain as well as Australia.

Zverev, who needed a fifth-set Davis Cup tie-breaker to beat De Minaur in their only prior meeting, broke in the first and third games, each time when the Aussie netted a backhand.

The German took the first set in 30 minutes on his fourth ace, dropping only five points on his serve in the first set and 11 in the match.

In the second set, Zverev smacked a forehand winner to break for a 2-1 edge. De Minaur saved three break points in the seventh game, then saved two match points in the ninth game with service winners before holding.

Zverev then held to finish the 74-minute match when De Minaur netted a backhand.

Murray ‘shock to system‘ 
De Minaur advanced to the semi-finals when three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray withdrew Friday after three grueling three-set matches in four days in only his third event since missing 11 months with a right hip injury.

“To go from nothing to back-to-backs like that was quite a shock to the system. He was a bit beaten up,” said Andy’s brother Jamie Murray, who won the doubles title with Brazilian Bruno Soares. “Hopefully he’ll be back on the court real soon.”

Murray also withdrew from next week’s event in Canada saying he plans to play in Cincinnati the following week.

In the later companion WTA event final, two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia goes for her 18th career tour title against Croatia’s 44th-ranked Donna Vekic.

World number 128 Kuznetsova, 33, last won a WTA title in 2016 at Moscow. Her most recent US crown was at Washington in 2014. Vekic, 22, won her only WTA titles in 2014 at Kuala Lumpur and last year at Nottingham.