Novak Djokovic made a timely return to his brilliant best after a traumatic year on Saturday as he thrashed Dominic Thiem to set up an Italian Open final meeting with young German Alexander Zverev.
Djokovic, who has suffered a fall from grace over the last year while wrestling with injuries and a lack of confidence, looked his old dominant self as he hammered the Austrian 6-1 6-0 in the second semi-final in virtuoso fashion.
Earlier in Rome, Zverev won a battle of the giants to down unseeded American John Isner 6-4 6-7(5) 6-1, making the tall 20-year-old the youngest ATP Masters 1000 finalist since a 19-year-old Djokovic in Miami in 2007.
Djokovic’s mini masterpiece, carved out in just 59 minutes against Thiem – who had ended Rafael Nadal’s winning streak so thrillingly on Friday – was his best performance of a difficult year.
The quick work-out against Thiem was just what Djokovic needed as it was his second match of the day, having completed a 6-1 6-4 win over Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in a rain-delayed quarter-final carried over from Friday.
Earlier this month, the Serb had parted company with his entire coaching team in a bid to regain the form that had made him an untouchable World No 1 a year ago.
The move, which he described as “shock therapy”, appears to have already paid dividends as Djokovic, who lost his top ranking to Andy Murray at the end of 2016, produced a devastating display against one of the game’s new luminaries.
Earlier, Djokovic had finished an emphatic job against Del Potro. The match had been halted by rain and lightning on Friday with the Serbian leading 6-1 1-2.
Djokovic dropped serve in the opening game but then won the next six.
He needed only one of two match points to finish off Del Potro.