He was the talent guru who took a young Andy Murray under his wing and now Patricio Apey is laying out a pathway to the top for his latest protégé, Alexander Zverev.
Long promoted as the air to a tennis throne that will be eventually be vacated when Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic eventually lose their appetite for winning, Zverev cemented his status as the rising start of the world game with a commanding performance to win the ATP Tour’s Citi Open title in Washington on Sunday, with the biggest prizes in the game certain to come into his sights sooner rather than later.
A little like Federer in his formative years, the potential Zverev has shown since Apey started guiding his career in his mid-teens is taking a little longer to emerge on the stages of Grand Slam events, but he could not wish to have a more experienced mentor to oversee his development off the court.
Apey sat down with Tennis365.com for an exclusive interview at The Boodles tennis event he has hosted for the past 17 years, as he suggested his client Zverev – who is nicknamed Sascha by all in his inner circle – has the chance to emerge as one of the world’s most famous sporting faces over the course of the next decade thanks, in part, to the huge success of the icons who are reaching the back end of their glorious careers.
“This is a very, very interesting time for the sport and Zverev is right at the heart of what will be an exciting future,” began Apey.
“The stage in this sport has been made massively bigger because of what Rafa, Roger and Novak have done. They have done incredible things to raise the profile of tennis and now this young generation of players and the next generation of players who are breaking through have a huge opportunity to take advantage of that.
“Some people don’t like this tag ‘Next Generation’ that the ATP have given to the players coming through because that suggests we are talking about players who will be good in the future, but the reality is these players are ready to win now and that is especially true when we are talking about Sascha Zverev.
“His ability is there for all to see and he is also a wonderful athlete to work with. To have a player who is 6’6”, blonde hair, blue eyes and is an incredible talent on the court, this is certainly good for the game and the key for us is there is no rush here. I have worked with a lot of tennis players down the years and you can never rush them. You give them the right platform to perform and from there, you see how far they can go.
“Every time we look at where Sascha is and ask where he might be in 18 months time, he get there inside six months. We have been working with Sascha since his was 16 and now he is 21. We said it would take five years for him to deliver on the potential we can all see he has and now he looks ready to do that.”
Apey will be hoping Zverev follows in the footsteps of one of the great success stories to have emerged from his ACE Group, with Andy Murray following the advice of his talent guru who was a pivotal figure as he changed the face of British tennis with his incredible success over the last decade.
After guiding Murray through the early years of his career and setting up some lucrative sponsorship agreements for the Scot, Apey looks back on his time with the Murray with pride.
“Managing top sportsmen is a job that has evolved in certain aspects during my time working in this field,” adds Apey. “I worked with Andy Murray in his formative years and that went well on and off the court, but so much depends on the athlete you are working with and their desire to maximise their talent.
“I remember having a conversation with Andy when he was 18 or 19 that unlike any other time in recent British tennis history, he had a very big stage that was made even bigger for him by Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman. They laid the foundations for what has followed in British tennis. They set the ball rolling to an extent and then Andy was dropped onto this stage just a moment when they were leaving it.
“He has done very well to assume that responsibility and thrive as a wonderfully successful player and a world No 1. It has been great to see Andy’s success. He has been a superb champion who has maximised his talents on the court and he is an example of those who are following him now.”
Zverev will be one of those looking to step into the void Murray will leave behind when he hangs up his racquets for the last time and he could not have a better man to plot his path to the top than respected adviser Apey.
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
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