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Zverev, the mop-topped German beanpole, has been the leading performer on the ATP tour — as opposed to the slams — for a couple of seasons now.
To appreciate the scale of this achievement, you have to remember how bulletproof Djokovic has looked all week. Once Zverev entered the knockout stages, though, he was a man transformed.
Not only did he pull off the ultimate double, knocking out Roger Federer and Djokovic — two consummate indoor players — in successive matches.
Despite that drama, this has been a tournament of uninspiring singles contests, in which only one of the 15 matches required a deciding set.
Zverev falls on his back at the moment of victory Credit: Getty Images The standard was high from the off, as Djokovic spread play with uncanny accuracy.
Yet Zverev ran down every ball, and returned them with interest, his long levers generating pace, depth, and a sense of weight.
As he moved towards the end of his , victory, the ball seemed to come off his racket like a watermelon. Djokovic, by contrast, was firing grapes. With his stilt legs and fast-twitch muscles, the 6ft 6in Zverev leapt along the baseline like a giant wading bird.
The effect was to make this dark-blue rectangle look no bigger than a paddling pool. Certainly Djokovic found it almost impossible to fire the ball past him, striking only seven winners in the match.
What a role reversal this was! But the sneaker was on the other foot on Sunday, as Zverev set out with the intention of outlasting the world No. Obviously, he had big serves. I wasn't returning well. I wasn't making him move too much.
I was making way too many unforced errors. From in the first set, my game really fell apart, to be honest. It happened in the final here against Andy Murray, and it happened again on Sunday. Best of the best Simon Briggs' ATP awards You could see his belief ebbing as Zverev fired down ace after ace in a flawless first set, landing an extraordinary 88 per cent of his first serves.
Serving at in the first set, Djokovic seemed to lose self-belief, and dropped serve for the first time at this event with a couple of wild forehands. Even when match-point down, Djokovic paused for a second after hitting a backhand that he thought would fly long — a lapse he would never make when mentally present.
He recovered quickly, and put in a decent approach shot, but Zverev passed him brilliantly — a highlight-reel shot to end a scintillating performance. The crowd rose in exultation, in a dramatic contrast to the rejection Zverev received after his win over Federer.
In that instance, he was booed during the post-match interview , in a harsh verdict on his decision to stop play during the second-set tie-break because a ball boy had dropped a spare ball at the back of the court. How did Zverev feel about coming back into the same arena on Sunday? But the crowd reaction wasn't too good to me.
It's a one-on-one sport, so we take things more personal than other sports. I was very happy to lift the trophy up. Thus far, he has struggled to deal with the pressure of expectation, clocking up just a single quarter-final in 14 attempts. But if he keeps playing like he did on Sunday, his first major cannot be far away.
Sascha speaks Right now I really can't describe it, it's unbelievable. The biggest title I've ever won. First of all I want to congratulate Novak on a great week, and not just this week but how you've played in the second half of this year. Maybe we've never seen it before, you barely lost a match.
I'm very pleased you lost one to me today.
We played twice this week, everyone knows how good a player you are but I want to mention how good a person you are as well. We had so many talks, not only about tennis but about other stuff, about life. All different kind of subjects, I'm not going to mention the ones we talked about but yeah you're also a really good sharer.
I appreciate you sharing titles and matches with me. You could win any match you want but I appreciate you letting me win today. Obviously huge congratulations to the whole Novak team as well.
You guys have been absolutely amazing. Then of course my team.
I want to start with my dad, he's been coaching me and my brother my entire life. I've always said he might be the best coach in tennis, and I really mean it. He's not going to stop crying until next year but that's fine. He also won't understand half of what I'm saying right now but that's ok.
I think everybody is happy just now, so thanks to him. Of course everyobdy else, thanks Ivan for joining the team. I think it's working out ok for now, I hope it's going to continue like that. I know some of you are thinking that's not actually possible to be any skinnier.
It is, I promise you. Thank you also to my best friend Marcelo Melo, my agent, my manager. Without you it's not possible. The future is now.
He looks nonplussed and begins talking again. I wasn't ready to get drunk yet but it's nice. I want to thank the crowd. The crowd has been absolutely amazing throughout the whole week. Even though we had a bit of a moment yesterday I really appreciate every single one of you coming out and showing love for the sport.
It's such a pleasure to play in front of such an amazing crowd. Thank you. Don't cut me off, I know it's really long. Thank you to all the ball boys, the umpires, the line judges. Thank you to Nitto, without you guys it's not possible.