Alexander “Sascha” Zverev has a lot of “youngest” titles: youngest to qualify for the year-ending ATP Finals since Juan Martin del Potro, youngest Top 5 player, youngest five-time champion in a season since Novak Djokovic in 2007. He’ll try to add to that list this week as the only active player outside of the Big Four, youngest or otherwise, to own three ATP Masters 1000 titles.
“I’m ready for the upcoming events. I’m ready for this one,” Zverev said, ahead of his 2017 Shanghai Rolex Masters start.
Zverev has had a breakthrough season. This time last year, he had just won his first tournament, a 250-level title in St. Petersburg. He started the year ranked 24, but is now at a career high of four, and the only player to collect at least five titles in 2017 not named Federer (tied with 5) or Nadal (with 6), including two Masters 1000 titles.
The youngster credits his stellar results to improvements both mental and physical. He said: “I think physically I’m a lot stronger. I have showed that over a lot of matches. I am able to last against the best guys. Not only last but, you know, play at the highest level at the end of matches.
“Also mentally, I’m able to finish out matches, able to compete with the best in close matches.”
The only thing missing on the 20-year-old’s already impressive resume is a breakthrough performance at the Grand Slam level. “This year I didn’t lose bad Grand Slam matches, apart from the US Open,” Zverev said. “US Open I think was bad for me. I think I played bad.”
“Apart from that, I lost to Rafa (Nadal) five sets in Australia. I lost to Milos (Raonic)] five sets at Wimbledon, who was the finalist the previous year. You know, even in Roland Garros I felt like Fernando Verdasco played a good match against me, and especially it was not easy because I’d just won my first Masters in Rome. Maybe people were expecting a little bit too much from me, but that was something that I was never been through, so I had to learn as well.”
Even though expectations are high for Zverev to be the next face of men’s tennis, don’t think the wunderkind is content just to wait until the Big Four fade away. The young man with the boy band blond hair said: “Not waiting; I’m doing a lot of stuff for (Grand Slam prospects). I’m practicing, working hard. I’m sure it will come. I’m very, very sure about it.”
His unexpected early loss at the US Open may just give him an edge in Shanghai.
“I think a lot of players during this period are not tired physically,” Zverev said. “They are more tired mentally from traveling so much, from not being home, from just playing. I don’t feel this way, because I feel like I have spent quality time at home during the season, as well, so I’m ready to go still.”