November 7, 2020
Alexander Zverev is showing real signs of breaking through to the very top of tennis.
And that means Germany has a potential Wimbledon 2021 champion. Particularly if Zverev’s extraordinary progress continues.
It may sound strange to talk about a breakthrough. He almost won the US Open a couple of months back, after all.
But sometimes in the past we have wondered whether Sascha would ever become consistent enough to share the rarified air of the purest, highest tennis peaks alongside the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Yet Zverev just made the great Nadal look ordinary in Paris. And that’s a very hard thing to do.
Sure, this was indoors against the King of Clay. And Rafa has just celebrated the monumental feat of reaching a thousand wins on tour.
Perhaps Nadal hadn’t quite reset mentally after that memorable moment.
But Zverev has beaten Nadal before. He has won the year-end finals in London, too.
This 6-4, 7-5 semi-final victory over Rafa was almost predictable. Zverev winning through is becoming a habit.
Even so, the manner of this particular victory was deeply impressive. It spoke much of the future of tennis, too.
For a start, Zverev’s serve was so effective. And not just his first-serve, either.
When Sascha is on-song, we know his first serve can be a blistering weapon. But now he is starting to add variety to his second serve, too.
It’s still a work in progress. But as he starts to have more faith in his second serve, and adds more craft and spin to that back-up delivery, so Zverev can be even more relaxed when he lets rip with the first.
Sascha admitted he has been working hard with his new mentor, David Ferrer on his second serve, as well as on other elements to his game.
He explained: ‘This (second serve) was a big problem for me last year. The forehand, as well, he wanted to work on. All these things are coming together.’
Indeed they are. Zverev is now hitting through that forehand much more comfortably.
And let’s face it, Sascha is at an advantage thanks to the natural power his tall frame generates on serve.
Potentially, this is a more dangerous weapon than the serve possessed by any of the Big Three.
That’s not to criticise the legends for a moment. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic all have excellent serves in their own way.
Federer’s is perhaps the best. Quickfire and fizzing, Roger doesn’t give an opponent any peace during his service games.
Rafa is solid and dependable, he works some devastating wide angles. So does Djokovic, whose kicker second serve has completely foxed even the great Federer on more than one occasion in a Wimbledon final.
But Zverev, even more than the Big Three, has the potential to really crush an opponent with his serve.
And make no mistake, he is starting to get it right more often than not.
He seems to have addressed other weaknesses too. There was a mental fragility about Sascha until recently. That appears to have gone.
Sascha refused to crumble when Nadal mounted a second-set comeback.
The old Zverev might have buckled when an opponent hit back from 2-4 down to lead 5-4 in the second.
The new Sascha steeled himself and absorbed the pressure. Then he promptly won the next three games to close out.
That shows he is growing in confidence. He explained: ‘I’m extremely happy with how the season gone since the break, and the practices I did during that time. I’m enjoying being on court.’
Can his fellow-finalist, Daniil Medvedev wipe the smile off Sascha’s face?
Zverev usually wins that match-up, as the 5-1 head-to-head shows. But he isn’t taking anything for granted.
Sascha observed: ‘The head-to-head is one thing but he beat me in the final in Shanghai, he’s going to be a difficult opponent in the final.’
Whatever happens there, the overall trend is upwards for Alexander Zverev.
And when you’re already as high as Sascha, that makes you a major contender for Wimbledon 2021.
We can’t wait to see him play there. How about you?’