Comment: Why this could be the week when Alexander Zverev confirms he is the real deal
COULD this be the moment when Alexander Zverev becomes the contender his talents demand he should be?
As he dismantled Fernando Verdasco in sublime fashion on Margaret Court Arena on Saturday evening, the ‘next big thing’ in the game gave due warning that finally looks like he is ready to live up to his billing as he eyes up the uncharted territory of playing on the final weekend of a Grand Slam event.
For a player who has been a resident in the world’s top 10 and a qualifier for the end of season ATP finals for the past three years (and a winner of that prestigious tournament in 2018), Zverev’s record in the four tournaments that build the legacy of a tennis player is little short of lamentable, with a couple of quarter-final appearances at the French Open over the last two years the best the German has managed in a major.
His demeanour in the Wimbledon press room after his third-round defeat against Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely in four sets last July suggested he was at a loss to find a solution to his Grand Slam woes, with his post-match comments confirming that bemusement ran deep.
“It was kind of a typical Grand Slam match for me,” said a clearly devastated Zverev. “I started off well, then one or two things don’t go my way, and everything kind of a little bit falls apart. When I get to the important moments, I can’t take any of those. My confidence is below zero.”
In truth, Zverev looked broken man at that media briefing, as he appeared to doubt whether he would ever crack the Grand Slam code.
A legal dispute with his former agent Patricio Apey was mentioned as a possible reason for his dip in form in 2019, but the Zverev we saw taking Verdasco apart in Melbourne suggests he is starting to find a solution to his woes in five-set battles.
His run to the last-16 at this year’s Australian Open has ensured that he has already achieved his best result in the first Grand Slam of the tennis year and while fellow rising star Andrey Rublev will serve up a stern test in the next round, Zverev has a sparkling record against the Russian as he had not dropped a set in his three previous matches against him.
At the age of 22, the maturity all the best players need to add to their natural talent appears to be arriving at a pace for Zverev and he is relishing his latest clash with in-form Rublev.
“He’s been awesome, winning 11 matches in a row to start the year,” says Zverev of his next opponent. “I hope I can break that winning streak. But he’s been playing amazing, winning both titles back-to-back, making the fourth round here, beating quality players.
“It’s so far been a good week for me. It’s going to be a process in every match. It has been getting better. Today was the best match I think I’ve played so far. Fernando is a player everyone knows how well he can play. He’s made it to the semi-finals here, where he had an unbelievable match with Rafa (Nadal).
“He’s beaten Rafa here a few years ago (2016). On these courts in Melbourne, I think he feels as well as anywhere, so I knew it was going to be a difficult match.
“I’m happy to be through in straight sets against someone we know they can play well on these courts, can beat anybody. So I’m really happy about that.”
Zverev’s army of fans will be hoping a first week that has seen him win all nine sets he has contested bodes well for what lies ahead, with Daniil Medvedev a possible quarter-final opponent ahead of a semi-final clash with Rafael Nadal.
The next few days could be the making of Zverev and if he is contesting for a maiden major title next weekend, the next great start of tennis will finally have made his breakthrough.
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
Jodie Burrage adding to the momentum behind Brits ahead of Wimbledon
Burrage’s journey, not only on grass courts but on tour as a whole, has not been smooth sailing.
Exclusive – Rumours over Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon withdrawal as John Lloyd gives his verdict
US Open champion Raducanu has not played since withdrawing from the Rothesay Open Nottingham with the injury that continues to trouble her.
Wimbledon: Jack Draper feels ‘ready to be dangerous’ following last four run in Eastbourne
Draper was beaten in the Eastbourne semi-finals by Maxime Cressy on Friday.
Emma Raducanu can rise above the pressure and deliver at Wimbledon
The 19-year-old sparked more fears around her fitness by pulling out of a practice session on Friday.
Eastbourne: Jack Draper misses out on maiden ATP final
Cressy continued his conquering of the British players to edge through 7-6 (5) 6-7 (2) 6-3.
Ukraine grateful to Wimbledon for its decision to ban Russian players
The Ukrainian teenager says she has been “constantly disappointed” at the reaction of tennis since Russia’s invasion.
Rafael Nadal making the most of every minute on grass
Rafael Nadal is upbeat ahead of Wimbledon.
Emma Raducanu’s agent defends teen star’s work schedule
Emma Raducanu’s agent Max Eisenbud insists the young star’s off-court commitments have not impacted her performance at all.
Emma Raducanu should limit off-court obligations according to former prodigy
Pam Shriver says she doesn’t expect much from Emma Raducanu at Wimbledon.
Andy Murray says ‘I still believe I can win Wimbledon’ and working hard to ‘achieve that goal’
Andy Murray believes he can win a third Wimbledon title.