Alexander Zverev takes Washington title to distance himself further from 'NextGen' label

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'NowGen': Sascha Zverev.

Alexander Zverev issued a warning to top ATP rivals on Sunday after winning the Citi Open for his fourth title of the year – he’s not the next generation, he’s the now generation.

The 20-year-old German defeated South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4 to capture the $355,460 (Dh1.3m) top prize at the US Open tune-up event on the Washington hard courts.

World number eight Zverev dropped only nine points on his serve and never faced a break point in becoming the youngest player to win four ATP titles in a year, or take the Washington crown, since Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro did it at 19 in 2008.

“I improved a lot in the last few months to get where I can win tournaments,” Zverev said. “The longer the tournament goes for me the better I’m able to play. Hopefully this can continue to be like that.”

Zverev won his first title last September in St. Petersburg and added trophies this year at Montpellier, Munich and Rome, where he downed Novak Djokovic in the final.

He also ousted number four Stan Wawrinka at Miami and pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets in the third round of the Australian Open.

“I’m ‘NextGen’ but the rankings say it for themselves,” Zverev said. “I think I showed I can play with the big guys this year. I think I showed I’m not an ‘in the future’ kind of guy. I’m right now.”

Only Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Roger Federer with five titles has won more ATP crowns this year than Zverev, and that’s only because the Swiss star handed the German his lone finals loss of 2017 at Halle in June.

“A lot of people are looking at him as the face of tennis and the next Grand Slam champion,” Anderson said of Zverev. “He seems to deal with it all pretty well. It will be interesting to see how the next little while progresses.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a few Grand Slams. He definitely seems to be on a path in that direction.”

Zverev, who will remain a career-best eighth in Monday’s rankings, made a Slam-best fourth-round Wimbledon run, losing in five sets to Milos Raonic.

“Winning those types of matches is the next level I need to reach,” Zverev said. “To get far in those events is my next goal.”

Zverev thanked new co-coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, the former world number one from Spain who worked with him at an event for the first time this week.

“What a way to start together and hopefully we have many more years to come and many more titles together,” Zverev said. “It’s amazing what we’ve already accomplished.”

Zverev took the only break of the first set in the third game when Anderson netted a forehand overhead smash. Zverev broke to open the second set and held from there, taking the title after 69 minutes when Anderson sent a backhand wide.

“The couple of times I had small openings he played really well,” Anderson said.

Anderson, in his first ATP final since winning the 2015 Winston Salem title, will jump from 45th to 33rd in Monday’s rankings, his best mark since standing 25th last August.

“I played some of my best tennis here,” Anderson said. “That has been really encouraging for me.”

In the Washington WTA final, Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova came back from a set down to defeat Germany’s Julia Goerges 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-0.

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Rogers Cup preview: Nadal handed tough road to No1 ranking, Federer back to work in Montreal

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The North American hard-court swing begins in earnest on Monday with the ATP stopping by Montreal for the Masters 1000-level Rogers Cup.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are the top two seeds in Canada for the first time since 2009 and headline a field which is missing four top-six players: No1 Andy Murray (hip injury), No4 Stan Wawrinka (out for rest of 2017 due to knee surgery), fifth-ranked title holder Novak Djokovic (out for rest of 2017 with elbow injury) and Wimbledon runner-up Marin Cilic (leg injury).

The US Open is four weeks away and players will be looking to end Federer and Nadal’s duopoly of the Grand Slam titles this season.

The draw ceremony took place on Friday, with Nadal, who could overtake Murray as world No1 after the tournament, handed a tricky path.

PROJECTED QUARTER-FINALS (BY SEED)

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [1] v Milos Raonic (CAN) [6]

Alexander Zverev (GER) [4] v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [8]

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [7] v Dominic Thiem (AUT) [3]

Kei Nishikori (JPN) [5] v Roger Federer (SUI) [2]

FIRST ROUNDS TO WATCH

Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) v John Isner (USA) [14]

Viktor Troicki (SRB) v Nick Kyrgios (AUS) [16]

Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) v Karen Khachanov (RUS)

Steve Johnson (USA) v Gael Monfils (FRA)

MAIN STORYLINES

No1 spot on the line

Nadal can return to the top of the world rankings, replacing Murray at the summit, if he reaches the semi-finals in Montreal. The Spaniard is a three-time champion in Canada and is playing there for the first time in two years.

Nadal has spent 141 weeks at No1 across three stints but hasn’t occupied the top spot since July 2014. He has been given a tricky draw which could see him face off with Borna Coric in his opener in round two, and John Isner or Juan Martin del Potro in round three.

Federer is back

Three weeks after capturing a record eighth Wimbledon trophy, Federer returns to action looking to extend his 12-match winning streak. The Swiss can only gain points from now until the end of the season, having missed the last six months of 2016 through injury.

He can’t become world No1 in Canada but has a chance to do so in the following weeks. Federer won 31 of the 33 matches he contested in 2017 and the main question moving forward will be: How much longer can he keep this up?

Who will step up: Thiem or Zverev?

Young and restless: Thiem and Zverev.

The two standouts from the younger generation, Dominic Thiem (23) and Alexander Zverev (20) have an opportunity in front of them heading into this final quarter of the season. They are currently No3 and No6 in the Race to London respectively and are No7 and No8 in the world rankings.

With Djokovic and Wawrinka out of action until 2018, Murray still struggling with a hip injury, and Cilic also out with a leg problem, Thiem and Zverev can focus on upping the pressure on Nadal and Federer in the next few months. It will be interesting to see which one of them ends 2017 ahead in the rankings.

At the moment, it looks like Zverev has a better chance of moving higher.

Can Del Potro catch fire?

Since reaching the semi-finals in his first tournament of the season in Delray Beach last February, Juan Martin del Potro hasn’t made it to that stage at an event since, and has been held back by difficult draws.

Del Potro has a history of doing well on the US hard courts but his current ranking of No32 means tough draws can continue to haunt him. In Montreal, he opens against 14th-seeded Isner, who is on an eight-match winning streak.

Nadal could await in the third round. The Argentine is 1-7 against top-10 opposition this season and will need to start pulling off ‘upsets’ is he plans on finding his way back into the game’s elite.

Curious case of Kyrgios

Nick Kyrgios returned to action in Washington, after pulling out of his Wimbledon opener with a hip issue, only to retire from his first round against Tennys Sandgren with a shoulder injury.

After having a strong few weeks earlier this year, Kyrgios has stagnated, due to physical problems as well as mental. The loss of his grandfather in the spring has greatly affected him, and he told fans in Washington the other day “I used to be good, man. My girlfriend dumped me and now I can’t play”.

Can he get his body in shape, and his head back in the game? That’s always the million-dollar question when it comes to Kyrgios.

KEY STATS

On a streak: Isner.

On a streak: Isner.

3 – former Rogers Cup champions are in the draw – Nadal, Federer and Tsonga.

4 – of the five Masters 1000 tournaments played so far this season have been won by Nadal (Madrid, Monte Carlo) or Federer (Indian Wells, Miami). Alexander Zverev won Rome.

8 – consecutive wins for Isner coming into the tournament, having won titles in Newport and Atlanta last month.

11 – years since Federer last won the Masters 1000 title in Canada.

12 – straight match wins for Federer heading into Canada, having picked up titles in Halle and Wimbledon in his last two outings.

12 – of the last 13 Masters 1000 titles in Canada were won by a member of the ‘Big Four’ with Tsonga being the one exception thanks to his trophy run in 2014.

30 – Masters 1000 titles won by Nadal – a record he shares with Djokovic.

285 – points separating Murray from Nadal at the top of the rankings in the week leading up to Montreal.

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Defending US Open champion Stan Wawrinka rules himself out of tournament and rest of 2017 season through injury

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Stan Wawrinka will not defend his US Open title and will miss the rest of the season after deciding he required a knee operation.

The 32-year-old was troubled by a left knee problem during a first-round loss to Daniil Medvedev at Wimbledon and revealed earlier this week he would miss the Masters events in Montreal and Cincinnati.

But Wawrinka has since made the decision to take direct action in a bid to cure the problem.

He said in a statement released through his management: “I am sad to announce that, after talking with my team and doctor, I had to make a difficult decision to undergo a medical intervention on my knee.

“This was the only solution to make sure I will be able to compete at the top level for many more years.”

Wawrinka won his third grand slam title in New York last summer with victory over Novak Djokovic.

Neither will be at Flushing Meadows this year, with Djokovic also calling an early end to his season to rest an elbow problem that forced him to retire during his Wimbledon quarter-final against Tomas Berdych.

It remains to be seen, meanwhile, whether world number one Andy Murray will be fit enough to compete as he continues his recovery from a hip problem.

Murray has withdrawn from next week’s Rogers Cup in Montreal but has not yet announced whether he will play in Cincinnati the following week or at the US Open.

Continuing his statement, Wawrinka said: “This is obviously extremely disappointing, but I’m already looking ahead and planning my recovery.

“I love this sport and I will work hard to get back to my top level and play many more years.”

Wawrinka has been replaced in the US Open draw by Germany’s Florian Mayer.

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