Alexander Zverev showed his clay-court class by blowing away Dominic Thiem to win the Madrid Open on Sunday.
Zverev has long been marked out as a future star of the men’s game and his 6-4 6-4 victory over Thiem suggests the German can be a major threat at the French Open later this month.
Thiem had ousted Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals on Friday, and he too will be among the small group capable of preventing the Spaniard from claiming an 11th Roland Garros crown.
But the Austrian was outplayed and overpowered by Zverev, who collected his third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, the most prestigious tier of knockout tournaments beneath the four Grand Slams.
Zverev is now one of five active players to have won three, the others being Roger Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Those four are all aged 30 or older, while Zverev is 21.
Ranked third in the world, Zverev is yet to transfer his talent and success in Masters events to Grand Slams, however, where his best result remains reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon last year.
On this evidence, that breakthrough is surely close, with the crowd on Manolo Santana court treated to an impressive display of aggressive baseline hitting.
Thiem’s 21 errors to Zverev’s 12 were also key.
The players in Madrid this week have remarked on the quickness of the courts and that has suited Zverev, whose demon serve was almost untouchable in the opening set.
After conceding an early break for 2-0, Thiem’s only sniff came at 5-4 when he opened up 0-30 on the Zverev serve. But his opponent did not waver, letting out a roar of relief after clinching the frame.
Another break in the first game of the second meant Thiem was again playing catch-up, and Zverev could have moved 3-0 clear had Thiem not saved two more break points.
Instead, Thiem stayed in touch to make Zverev serve out.
A sumptuous half-volley opened up two match points, and Zverev took the first when a final Thiem forehand floated long.