Alexander Zverev on his coronation as Germany’s Sportsman of the Year and what comes next

Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev enjoyed a stunning year on court that included an Olympic gold medal and glory in the end-of-season ATP Finals in Turin.

Now he has opened up about his year in an exclusive interview with Eurosport on the “Das Gelbe vom Ball” podcast.

On being voted “Germany’s Sportsman of the Year”:
“Of course it was a surprise. We are in a country where there are so many successful athletes. It’s a great honour to be voted Sportsman of the Year now.”

On the popularity of tennis in Germany:
“I have the feeling that tennis is coming back a bit over the last few years with Angie Kerber and also with me. Tennis is becoming more popular again, more tennis is being watched and played in Germany. That’s also something nice for me.”

On the possibility of being world number one after the Australian Open:
“I know I’m not far away from it, but for that I also have to win tournaments and Grand Slams. The situation with Novak and Australia is still a big question mark. Of course I hope that he will be allowed to play, that’s very clear. There are thousands of mathematical calculations, if he doesn’t play Australia and I win the Australian Open, then I’m number one in the world and so on and so forth. At the end of the day, now is not the time to think about it [ being able to become world number one], now is the time to prepare as best as you can so you’re physically able to play for it.”

On his own development:
“I’ve become much calmer. I’m also getting older. I’m not 18 or 19 anymore. I understand maybe a bit more things about life and understand that you just have to keep calm in important situations. That has had its effect on me this year. But the biggest improvement I’ve made is my second serve. I haven’t had any matches in the last six months where I served 20 double faults.”

On next year:
“I think next year could be very similar to the last six months from this year. Before, there used to be always talks about Nadal, Federer and Djokovic – now the big titles were Olympics, US Open, Torino and Wimbledon. And they were all won by Medvedev, Djokovic and me. I don’t expect it to be any different next year.”

Alexander Zverev Tokyo Olympics gold medallist

On coaches such as Ivan Lendl or David Ferrer:
“In my eyes, apart from my father, David Ferrer was my best coach. He was relatively young as well, but we got on so well personally. We could talk for hours and watch matches. I never did that with Ivan [Lendl], for example. I never really felt comfortable talking to him. It was often the case that we practised and saw each other again the next day at practice. That was a different relationship, but I just need the private thing. I need that ‘comfort’ that I get from the coach. That’s why I usually played best with the people I got on best with.
With David, there’s always a door open. I spoke to him not too long ago. We still talk quite a lot. At the moment it’s difficult with him, but I’m definitely not ruling it out.”

On his relationship with girlfriend Sophia Thomalla and how she helps him become a better player:
“She gives me such extreme calm. She is confident as a person and knows what she wants. She also has her own thing going on and got plenty of jobs. The good thing about the relationship is actually: she doesn’t need me at all and I don’t need her either. We are two people who are really with each other because we want to be with each other. There is no other thought behind it. Of course, there is a lot of coverage about us because I am number three in the world and she is one of the most famous celebrities in Germany. But we have a relatively quiet life together. She understands that I train eight hours a day and I don’t go to the restaurant every night. That’s a huge help for me. She’s older than me, has been through a lot in life and understands exactly what I need to get better.”

The Australian Open will be live on Eurosport next month