Learn to cheer, not jeer, Zverev
Fans in London who jeered Sascha Zverev after beating Roger Federer should learn to love him.
He not only won the Nitto ATP Tour Finals on Sunday, Zverev outplayed a Novak Djokovic who has rolled through most opponents since Wimbledon.
More than any other player, Zverev is the most likely young player to dominate the sport after the eclipse of Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
At age 21, he’s already won the ATP Tour Finals plus Masters 1000 titles in Rome, Montreal and this year, Madrid. He’s beaten Federer three times, including the London semi-final. He also nearly beat peak Nadal on clay in the Rome final this year before a weather delay turned momentum in Rafa’s favor.
Some fans and media perceive Zverev as the arrogant epitomy of the pampered athlete. But others admire Zverev for being straight-forward and brutally honest about his issues with the newfangled Davis Cup (which he vows to skip) and the long, arduous tour calendar.
Statuesque and majestic on court, Zverev often carries the air of an heir apparent. He expects perfection, and though his smashed racquets often suffer for it, he’s working hard to be the best.
With Ivan Lendl as his coach, Zverev is hitting the ball with more purpose and authority. Like Andy Murray under Lendl, Zverev has amped up his forehand side. He’s worked hard to develop a net game that comes more easily to his older brother Misha. In London, he’s routinely serving over 130 mph, with the speed gun clocking some above 140.
While Federer and others have urged Zverev to play closer to the baseline, he’s found success playing deep to maximize his height and reach to cover the court and wind up with big, powerful swings that are increasingly hitting opponents off the court. His double-handed backhand, among the best ever in tennis, allows him to dominate the middle without giving up court to hit run-around forehands.
If a maturing Zverev can remain healthy and improve consistency and concentration over two-week Grand Slams, he could reach number one even before the retirements of the Big Four.
(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)