First, there came Nick Kyrgios. Then, Dominic Thiem.
However, in the list of trailblazing youngsters, Alexander Zverev, through the surety of his on-court action, has not only put his name as the first among his equals, but has also – in a way – gone on to overshadow these two colleagues of his.
With triumphs, come accolades
Winning the Rome Masters against Novak Djokovic, a four-time former champion, on Sunday brought home a lot of first-ever achievements for the 20-year-old.
From being the youngest player since Djokovic himself (at the 2007 Miami Open) to have won an ATP Masters title to being the first German since Tommy Haas (at the 2001 Stuttgart Masters) to have won the second-highest laurel within the sport, Zverev seems to have captured it all. In addition, he has also looked to have fast-tracked his name on the shortlist of potential Major champions.
While the former will soon be consigned to distant memory and will fade as the tournaments zip through in their scheduled frenzy, the latter, while enduring, is the bigger reward in the four years he has been around in the ATP Pro Tour. Moreover, it’s also timely in nature, with the change of guard long-awaited in the sport never materialising seemingly up until now, leaving men’s tennis in a vacuum despite the lingering – and effectual – continuity of the Big Four, or the Fab Five, as the moniker is often times referred to.
Watching Zverev’s game unfold, it is pretty clear why the youngster has been touted as the next big thing. He’s equipped with the necessary weapons – a powerful serve that takes time for his opponents to get accustomed to, and the availability of a range of shots off both his forehand and backhand that forces his rivals to try and think out-of-the-box.
What, however, adds depth to Zverev’s game are his natural instincts which back-up his shot-making skills. Thus, playing in his matchup against Djokovic as he was, Zverev found a way to subdue each of Djokovic’s strengths throughout the match, including his otherwise impervious backhand wing.
He has also been equally effective against Roger Federer on a couple of occasions when they faced off in 2016. Just as he troubled Rafael Nadal in their Australian Open third round match, pushing the match into the deciding fifth set, in January 2017.
Deserved praise, but is it too soon?
His ability to read his opponents as much as he tries to penetrate through their game makes him quite a dangerous rival to face-off. This aptitude of Zverev, however, isn’t without a catch.
In such times that an opponent finds himself gaining an upper-hand in the match against him for all his brilliance and acumen, Zverev does find himself getting flustered. And, in those short few moments that it takes for him to regain his focus, the German needs to dig relatively deeper to get himself out of the situation at hand, often at the cost of the match itself.
Although, several players, including Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are also prone to these behavioural outbursts, their experience helps them get through most of these tough times. And, regardless of his talent, experience is the one element that’s missing from Zverev’s resume.
It will, therefore, take him a while to change these attributes. It’s, however, worth considering that Zverev also needs to be away from the waves of expectations reaching out to him.
In that as well, he needs time to work things out for himself. To be a player, who not just fulfils expectations, but also redraws them, separate from the identities of those who held the sport’s roost before him. Thus, as much as Zverev has been anointed to be the successor to present-day tennis legends, he needs time to be the player who could be the initiating point of debates and discussions anew.
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.