Over the next two weeks, the first serve series will be previewing our top male and female players and top returnees as we build up to the first grand slam of the year. We’ll analyze what they’ve got going for them and what they need to do to be successful in 2018.
Is Alexander Zverev a king in waiting? The young prodigy from Germany made serious inroads on the tour, last year. He won his first masters 1000 title, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final of the Rome Masters. To prove that victory was no fluke, he blitzed Roger Federer in the finals of Montreal to capture his second title on that level. We all know Alexander Zverev has got some serious potential and his development on tour has been nothing short of remarkable. He is into the finals of the Hopman Cup where he will face off against Roger Federer in the men’s singles. To take a measure of how good this guy is, this is the one match Federer could lose. Federer knows it too.
Keys to success:
- Maintaining a level head
- Peak for the slams
- Vary his game
Alexander Zverev is a very grounded young man and it has served him well. He isn’t as flashy or as volatile as a Nick Kyrgios is and he has a clear direction of where he wants his career to go. To the relief of many tennis followers, he hasn’t given any indication of being disillusioned about his tennis career. If Zverev doesn’t love tennis, it certainly doesn’t show. He also loves to win and hates to lose. That’s a good thing but that’s also where his first challenge lies. Zverev doesn’t seem to do well with losses when they come. He appears to dwell on them for too long and he’ll have to watch that in 2018. He has to learn to – as the poem says – meet with triumph and defeat and treat those two imposters the same. Defeat is a part of sports and Zverev needs to understand that he will lose from time to time. What is important is to learn from those defeats and move on, getting better each time.
It is also important for him to learn how to take tournaments one match at a time and matches one point at a time. Zverev also loves to win a little too much. In tight matches against quality players, he is prone to resort to risky all or nothing tactics that don’t consistently serve him well. A little patience will take him a long way and also teach him the valuable lesson of peaking for the slams where it is more of a marathon than a sprint. Winning a best of five match is no easy task and Zverev could take a cue from Federer’s playbook. Not many players have come from two sets down to win grand slam matches as much as the great Swiss has. There is a reason for this. A best of five set match gives you more time to problem solve and adapt your game. It requires maintaining one’s calm, patience and confidence in one’s ability to execute – to do what needs to be done. If Zverev can learn this, his danger factor increases tremendously.
Zverev has a very polished game that is Bjorg like, with a bit more power. His backhand is as good as half the ATP tour players’ forehands and his forehand though erratic is a feared weapon when it is on song. However, Zverev can get predictable with his playing patterns. Due to his clean ball striking and remarkable pace of shot, it is usually a case of his opponents seeing it coming but being able to do little about it. Against the higher caliber players though, it becomes a different matter when they start reading his plays. I expect him to have worked on his variety, during the off-season. Drop shots, coming to the net, backhand slices and lobs are all disruptive plays that will keep his opponents guessing and give him the ability to hurt them from any part of the court. It will also give him the option of bringing certain plays into action when the pressure mounts.
Though he is currently ranked World Number 4, I like Zverev’s chances to either go a spot higher or hold that ranking throughout the season. He is that good and still remains a king in waiting.