MADRID: Alexander Zverev produced an impressive display to beat Dominic Thiem in straight sets on Saturday and book his spot in the Madrid Open final, where he will face either Casper Ruud or Matteo Berrettini.
Fifth seed Zverev, who stunned five-time champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals on Friday, saw off Thiem 6-3, 6-4 in a repeat of the 2018 final, which was also won by the German.
“It is going to mean a lot to me (if I can win the final) I am definitely looking forward to it,” said the 24-year-old Zverev, bidding to win the title without dropping a set, as he did three years ago.
Thiem threatened a late fightback after trailing 4-1 in the second set, but had too much to do to reach a third Madrid final.
The Austrian third seed will now turn his attentions to Rome next week and then the French Open which starts later this month, where he is also a two-time runner-up.
The tournament has seen a welcome return to form for Zverev, who had won only two matches in his previous three events since lifting the Acapulco title in March.
The world number six will be a strong favourite in Sunday’s final, against either Norway’s Ruud or Italian eighth seed Berrettini.
It was Zverev and Thiem’s first meeting since the latter’s dramatic triumph in the 2020 US Open final, when he came back from two sets down to win in a deciding-set tie-break.
“We have had some fantastic matches,” added Zverev, who still trails Thiem in their head-to-head 8-3. “We have played the biggest matches in the world.
“We have played Masters 1000 finals, we have played Grand Slam finals and (the rivalry) is still developing.
“It is still going to go on for a few more years. Hopefully we will play a few more amazing matches.”
Zverev started strongly at the Caja Magica, saving a break point to lead 2-1 before breaking in the following game at the fourth opportunity.
He only dropped three more points on serve as he comfortably closed out the opening set, before piling the pressure on Thiem early in the second.
Thiem, the world number four, lost his serve twice in the first five games to put Zverev on the brink of victory.
He managed to get one of the breaks back and then held serve in a marathon game to cut the deficit to 4-3.
But Zverev was not to be denied and a perfectly-timed ace kept him ahead before he secured a final spot on his second match point.