Alexander Zverev will reach No.1 sometime in 2019. There, my first bold prediction for the new year but there will be more when I do a look ahead to the new season but this time I want to concentrate on the 21-year-old German.
When Mr. Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic in the final of the ATP Finals, he ended quite a statistic that the world No. 1 was holding. Mr. Djokovic had a winning record over every other player in the top ten. Not one of the nine – Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Juan Martin Del Potro, Kevin Anderson, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, John Isner, had the advantage over him. However, when the German scored his win in London a couple of weeks ago, he in fact levelled the head-to-head with the Serb.
That win brought Mr. Zverev to 2-2 on the head-to-head ending bis run as the dominator.
Going into the final at the O2, the majority of observers and fans reckoned Novak would score his second win of the week over Sascha having already beaten him quite handily in the round robin stage of the event. How wrong most people were.
The London win was the biggest of Mr. Zverev’s career. Sure, he had won big before with Masters 1000’s but the ATP Finals are seen as a pseudo fifth major and to end the year with that sort of title is likely to be the booster he needs going into the new season.
Certainly, it could have a reverse effect and it may put pressure on him but somehow, I don’t think that is going to be an issue, as it was with Grigor Dimitrov after he won the same title in 2017. Mr. Zverev is different; he has a greater mental strength to get past the hurdles and now having Ivan Lendl in his camp will surely only add to the chances of him going all the way at the majors and the rankings.
The majors are where it is going to count. He cannot let disappointing play get in his way and the various excuses as to why there was yet another early loss. He has only reached the quarters of one of the big four once, this year’s Roland Garros.
I have been good friends with Ivan for over 30 years. He is a no-nonsense person and doesn’t take excuses lightly. He expects punctuality and his expectation is more than hard work and that is what Mr. Zverev will have to give and any petulance and potential arrogance will need to be left inside his racquet bag.
Mr. Lendl has known the family a long time; he and Zverev Senior played juniors together and remained friends. He can obviously see what Zverev Junior is capable of and it is exciting for him to be part of it all as he was with Andy Murray.
The only German to have held the No.1 ranking was Boris Becker the current German Davis Cup coach. He held the top spot for twelve weeks with the last time being 8 September 1991. The highest he got in the prestigious year-end rankings was two, in 1989 and 1990. Mr. Zverev showing more maturity on his side, can be year-end No.1 in 2019.
At every one of the majors he can pick up huge points, and he will.
Roger Federer gained most of his points in the first half of the season when he had a run of 17 consecutive match wins including the Australian Open. Just 35 points separates Mr. Zverev from Mr. Federer who is three. Rafa Nadal also had a solid run in the first half of the year that saw him win the French Open and a gazillion clay titles. 1095 points separates Mr. Zverev from Mr. Nadal.
The fly in the ointment could very well be Novak Djokovic. He was a nemesis for pretty much everyone in the second half of 2018. From the start of Wimbledon he lost three matches and ironically only to the young brigade – Stefanos Tsitsipas 20, Karen Khachanov 22 and Alexander Zverev 21.
There are 2660 points between the Serb and the German. Mr. Djokovic can definitely cushion things in the first half of 2019 but there are still a lot of ranking points to defend.
Mr. Zverev will be striking and will get there.