The 21-year-old German took the honours at the season-ending tournament in London on Sunday with victory over Dominic Thiem after compiling eight wins from eight games against his opponent
After victory at the ATP Finals, is 2022 the year Alex Zverev can finally claim his first grand slam title?
Now that has a ring to it. A win at the ATP Finals, the season-ending tournament in London, now that has a five-year-old ring to it. It might have taken 15 players to make it to the final at London’s O2 Arena, yet it seems the world’s No4 is not deterred when he becomes the youngest player since Jana Novotna in 1998 to win one.
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It was just when Dominic Thiem was closing in on a points haul that would have allowed him to take the trophy off Alex Zverev, that the young German made it happen. A record number of 11. That the 21-year-old saved 11 of the 13 break points he faced is also of note as the Czech Republic has proved the toughest of venues.
Perhaps not for long. Zverev now heads for the final of the 2018 Wells ATP World Tour Championship in Boca Raton, Florida, with his first grand slam title in sight as early as 2022.
Some 39,213 people crammed into London’s O2 Arena to watch the biggest week in the tennis calendar, a sell-out crowd that represents a record for the tournament, one that is further evidence that Zverev can catch the dream of tennis’s next Usain Bolt. A crowd of around 95,000 is expected on 30 November when the German takes on Rafael Nadal for the $1.6m first prize. “It was definitely a fantastic match. It was probably one of the toughest matches I have ever played in my life,” Zverev said. “It was a solid performance. It would have been easy to get discouraged but I remained really cool.”
But can Zverev now do anything against Nadal?
“It would be great to win a grand slam against Rafa,” Zverev said. “But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I’m not a big-match player. I’m just going to keep training hard in the weeks coming.”
It seems safe to say that for a generation of tennis players, beginning with the world No1, Novak Djokovic, and including last week’s French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, and, to a lesser extent, Andy Murray, Zverev is the most marketable player around.
It is hoped he has as much chance to follow Novak Djokovic into the pantheon of greats as anybody can expect to win on Murray Meadows in Surrey. “It’s a dream of mine. It is what I have always dreamed of,” he said. “But let’s not say this year, let’s not say next year, let’s say I think about it when I am old, when I stop, I think about this moment.”
On Sunday, however, he sealed the biggest night of his life so far with a 7-6, 6-2 victory against Thiem, who had earlier dismantled Roger Federer. To put it in some perspective, only one other player has won the season-ending tournament before, and that was a solitary year in 1989 when Boris Becker beat Ivan Lendl.
Still, the precocious Zverev is getting close to creating history, though there is no chance he will talk of it at this stage. “I don’t want to get over-confident right now,” he said. “I know next year I will have to wait, but I want to win one now.”