Comment: Alexander Zverev needs to stop pleading for patience and start seizing his opportunity

Alexander Zverev dejected

Alexander Zverev has annoyed Michael Graham, who says it’s time he stopped making excuses and started to realise the amazing opportunity he has.

There can be little doubt that Alexander Zverev is the best of a very talented crop of youngsters in the ATP right now.

The German’s talent has really started to shine through and, at the time of writing, no one has won more ATP Tour matches than him this season.

However, and I say this more out of sheer frustration than anything else, he needs to both grow up and toughen up.

This week, he has spoken out in defence of the young players on tour, specifically addressing the consistent criticism that they have failed to topple the established and frankly ageing stars from their perch at the top of the ATP rankings.

“It is not easy for us young guys sometimes, you know, we get expected too much from us,” Zverev said. “And it’s interesting how to see the other young guys handle it as well and kind of see how it goes.

“I think there’s a lot of young guys being top 20, top 30 now.

“You know, I’ve just managed to win maybe a few more matches here and there and kind of get to the later stages of the big tournaments.

“But there’s a lot of other young guys that are doing great. Tsitsipas is doing really well, Shapovalov has been doing really well this year I thought, especially with the expectations on his shoulders.”

In all honesty, those comments actually provoked a little anger in me.

Just what more does Zverev want, exactly? Roger Federer is winding down and, for the first time, looking like someone coming to the end of a career. He’s also 37-years-old.

Then we have Rafael Nadal, whose body has started creaking under the strain of his intense game. He pulled out of both the Australian Open and US Open this season with injury, and has taken his time in recovering whenever needed.

Granted, Novak Djokovic has found his best form again, but for the first six months of the season he was a bit of a disaster to say the least.

There has been no Andy Murray. Injury has left Stan Wawrinka a shadow of what he used to be. Kei Nishikori has struggled with injury. Juan Martin del Potro has been carefully managing his fitness, as usual.

Alexander Zverev dejected after Cincinnati Masters exit

Just what more does Zverev want? How better an opportunity does he want for young players to grab the ATP tour by the scruff of the neck? Arguably, there has never been a better or more inviting time to do it.

And yet, Zverev, who leads the charge of the ‘nextgen’ players, has still failed to take himself beyond the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam.

In fact, in terms of ‘expectation on his shoulders’, all any of us really expect from the German anymore going into any Grand Slam is a disappointing early exit.

The truth is that tennis has never been more ready for an breakout star; the ATP has never been more there for the taking. It’s actually quite difficult to even remember the true top-level breakout main-event star on the ATP tour, such is the length of time we have waited.

I like Zverev, and I think that the current crop of young players is a genuinely very exciting one, both in terms of talent and variation, but he needs to toughen up and get real.

“Not easy for us young guys”? Well, no one ever said it was going to be, but it’s probably as easy as it’s ever going to get, so it’s high time someone showed the stones to step forward and seize the opportunity.

Michael Graham

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