by Shubham Singh
If we take a look at last 4 years of the Australian Open, the tournament has either been won by the world number one, Djokovic, or the Swiss Maestro, Roger Federer.
It is the first major tournament of the year and players rarely miss out on it. It generally takes place after a decent break that gives players ample time to pull their socks up, get their heads in the right place and their bodies in the ideal condition — that’s where these two perfectionists get the better of their opponents.
However, regardless of the fact that fans generally fancy these two to the lift the trophy, the winds of change that have blown through tennis recently suggest that it could be a different story this time. Alexander Zverev’s two outstanding victories in the ATP Finals against Roger Federer in the semi-final and Novak Djokovic in the final, both won in straight sets rocked the tennis world.
Many players come out of the blue every year and send a wave of awe across the world of tennis but not many are as special as Alexander Zverev. That’s why everyone has been talking about him lately, that’s why he looks like a realistic punt — as per the suggestions of Australian Open odds — he’s charming, talented and desires to be one of the best players to grace the court. So, what makes him so special and such a serious contender for the Australian Open?
The reason for his inclusion in the upper echelons is not just his current success. He has shown significant growth in his style of play and on the overall aspects that play a crucial part in the long run. He brought Jez Green into his team in 2013 to bolster his fitness which shows he’s taking not purely concentrating on his style, but also, his fitness.
He isn’t short of success at his age, but he doesn’t want to settle for the minor titles. His biggest concern has been his lukewarm presence in the Grand Slams. Although he has been coached by his father, the addition of Ivan Lendl has been instrumental in his recent success at the ATP Finals. Lendl was influential in Murray’s success — he guided Murray to three Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold in 2012. We could expect some of his expertise to rub off on Zverev. Even Zverev acknowledged Lendl’s advice being crucial in his recent triumph. After his victory, he credited Lendl for his advice that helped him in both the semi-final and final.
“He talked about golf to me before the match. No, I’m kidding,” Zverev joked following his victory. “He obviously analyzed the match that I played with [Djokovic] a few days ago, told me a few things I had to do different. I was more aggressive today.”
“Obviously Ivan, the experience he has on and off the court, is amazing. That helped me, as well, to kind of play the two matches that I played back-to-back now.”
With an already strong camp, Lendl’s inclusion would be a cherry on top.
One of the best things about Zverev right now is that he is surrounded by proven winners in his camp and his interviews and behaviour on the pitch reflect a good sense of maturity. Djokovic was full praise for the youngster who defeated him in straight sets and mentioned how he the two of them are common in some aspects.
He said, “I mean, there’s a lot of similarities in terms of trajectory of professional tennis, in our careers.”
“Hopefully he can surpass me. I mean, I sincerely wish him that. He seems like someone that is very dedicated. Without a doubt, he’s a really nice person, someone that gets along very well with everyone. He deserves everything he gets so far. There’s a lot of time ahead of him. Wish him to stay healthy and obviously win a lot of titles.”
But the 21-year-old has his feet planted firmly on the ground and didn’t spare a moment to play down the comparison. He said, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, my God,”
“I mean, I’ve won one of those [ATP Finals]. He won five. He’s won, I don’t know what, 148 titles more than me. Let’s not go there for now. I hope I can do great. I mean, but just chill out a little bit.” ‘Chill’ is certainly apt.
What to expect from Zverev in 2019?
It’s obvious that he’d be treading into Australia with huge confidence. With Lendl’s winning formula and Zverev’s potential, we can expect at least one Grand Slam next year.
Although there are few things about his play that need to be addressed. All the star players have big weapons in their repertoire at their disposal in crucial moments. For now, Zverev seems to lack that. He does have a fantastic first serve that can turn the game in his favour many times but he needs to put work on his overall game if he’s aiming for something big.
He’s just 21 and has many years ahead of him. If he keeps progressing like this, 2019 would certainly be a big year for him and we would probably see him lift a Grand Slam title.