The world watched in awe and admiration as the 20- year old boy lifted his first ever Master’s 1000 trophy. Alexander Zverev’s victory over Novak Djokovic, the 12 time major champion in the finals of the Italian Open made people wonder whether they were witnessing the early days of a legend in the making. The German, all of six foot and six inches has certainly caught the attention of tennis experts and fans alike and is being touted as a champion of the next generation, the post Big Four period.
Zverev’s career graph has been a steep upward rising curve. From winning his first Challenger title in 2014 to a top 10 ranking and an ATP Master’s 1000 title this year, the young lad has improved in leaps and bounds. Right from the beginning of his professional career, he has had a knack for felling higher ranked players. In the 2014 International German Open, Mikhail Youzhny had become the German prodigy’s first top 20 scalp, that too at a time when he was nowhere near the top 100 players. Juan Monaco in the Swedish Open, Kevin Anderson and Alexander Dolgopolov in the Citi Open were his prized victims in the year next.
2015 was also the year he played and won his first Grand Slam match at the hallowed London grass courts. By the next season the ever improving Zverev had started to make his name as a potential threat to any player on his day. Marin Cillic, Giles Simon, Ivan Dodig, Grigor Dimitrov, Marcos Baghdatis and the likes bit the dust against the 19-year-old in various ATP tournaments throughout the year. However the promising youngster will remember 2016 as the year he beat the legend, the winner of seven Wimbledon titles - Roger Federer on his favourite grass court at the Halle Open.
And by the time he had won the St. Petersburg Open, defeating US Open champion Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the final match, Zverev’s triumphs had become less of shocking upsets and more of impressive victories as he rocketed into the list of the top 20 players, the youngest to do so since Novak Djokovic in 2006. Even then, his 6-4 6-3 decimation of the world no.2 was never on the cards. After all Djokovic had just returned to his winning best, having comfortably completed the double victory over del Potro and Thiem the previous day. With this win the German has upgraded himself to the next level, a level where he, as well as his fans can believe that he can regularly defeat the best in business.
Zverev is being thought of as the next big name in men’s tennis. A number of present and ex players have spoken of his inborn talent as well as the hard work he puts in to sharpen it. Speaking of natural abilities, the fact that both his parents were professional tennis players works very well for him. To top it all, having a top 100 ranked elder brother as a practice partner certainly gives him that extra advantage. Zverev’s calmness, courage and ability to not get intimidated by the big names on court do not hurt him either.
With the French Open days away, he could not have peaked at a better time. Alexander Zverev will enter the second Grand Slam of the year as a top 10 ranked player, a first for him. The achievement, coming barely two years after he played his first major speaks volumes about the promise that he brings to the men’s game, one that has primarily been revolving around the Big Four for quite a number of years now. It might be too early to hail him as a legend in the making, but he seems to have all the qualities and the perfect temperament to become one. The stage is set for him, to prove himself, to pull off a few stunners, something he is well versed in. And if that happens, the Nadals and the Djokovics have to be ready, very much ready, to weather the Zverev storm that is gearing up to hit on the Paris clay courts