Heirs to the throne, Part VIII: Alexander Zverev

 - Danielle Rossingh

They are the future of tennis whose stars shone brightly in 2018. Here's everything you wanted to know about them

Alexander “Sascha“ Zverev defending on the Roland-Garros 2018 clay©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

They are the future of tennis whose stars shone brightly in 2018. Here's everything you wanted to know about their tennis, hobbies and personalities.

Here are five things to know about Alexander Zverev.

He’s the Nitto ATP Finals champion

He’s long been touted as the future of tennis, and on Sunday, Alexander “Sascha” Zverev finally delivered, beating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in a commanding 6-4, 6-3 performance to win the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

Zverev, a 21-year-old German with a booming serve and blistering backhand, is not only the youngest player since Djokovic in 2008 to win the season-ending event for the top eight, he is also the first champion from Germany since a certain Boris Becker lifted the trophy in 1995. 

“This is the biggest title of my career so far,” said Zverev, the first man to have beaten both Djokovic and 20-time grand slam winner Roger Federer in the same week at the ATP Finals. “This trophy means a lot, everything, to all the players. You only have so many chances of winning it. You play against the best players only. How I played today, how I won it, for me it's just amazing.”

Becker, commentating on the match for the BBC, said: “The world saw a new superstar in tennis arrive on Sunday.”

“For years we have been saying tennis needs new faces and strong new players - and he has proved he is the best of the next generation.”

Alexander ©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
He comes from a tennis family

The son of former Soviet Union Davis Cup player Alexander Zverev, Sr. and Irina, a tennis coach and former Fed Cup player, and the younger brother of world No. 69 Mischa Zverev, it is not surprising the youngest Zverev became a tennis player.

In 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, the Zverev family moved to Germany, where Alexander was born six years later. He first picked up a racket when he was just a year and five months old, and started practising with his parents from the age of five.

Guided by his parents and his serve-and-volley playing brother, who is 10 years older and whom he regards as his role model, Sascha was an outstanding junior, rising to the No. 1 ranking in 2013.

His secret weapon: a toy poodle

It was love at first sight when Zverev first met Lovik, a toy poodle who travels with him and his family for most of the year.

“He came up to me, he didn’t want to leave my arms when I met him, so I just took him home with me,” the 1.98-meter tall Zverev told the ATP Tour website earlier this year, when asked why a big man has such a small dog.

He’s hired half of Andy Murray’s team

Zverev has worked with Jez Green, the former fitness trainer of Andy Murray, for five years. His agent is Patricio Apey, who used to guide the three-time grand slam winner from Scotland at the beginning of his illustrious career.

This summer, Zverev added none other than Ivan Lendl to his coaching staff. Lendl, an eight-time grand slam winner, famously guided Murray to grand slam success after four heartbreaking defeats in major finals, and it looks like his unique coaching style is already working its magic with Zverev. 

"Obviously, Ivan, the experience he has on and off the court, is amazing,” Zverev said about Lendl on Sunday.

He has yet to break through at the grand slams

Having overcome Zverev in five sets at last year’s Australian Open, Rafael Nadal hailed the young German as “the future of our sport and the present too.”

Although Zverev has won nine titles since he turned pro in 2013, including three Masters 1,000 events, and has risen to as high as No. 3 in the world, he has yet to break through at the highest level. His best performance in 14 grand slam appearances: one quarterfinal appearance, at this year’s Roland-Garros.

The time to deliver has come now, said Becker, who has got to know the world No. 4 well in the past few years as the head of men’s tennis in Germany.

“Winning the ATP Finals is a big step for him, now doing it over five sets at the Australian Open in January, and then the other Grand Slams, is where it really matters,” Becker said.

Can he do it?

Watch this space.