Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Zverev's Struggles and Growing Pains

Hi All,

It's been a while since I signed in and wrote something, but I wanted to plug back in and offer my thoughts. Alexander Zverev is my topic today.

Image result for alexander zverevHe's a huge talent, one of the young guns, a future number 1, and he definitely reached an all time high ranking last year at number 4 accumulating 5 titles in 2017. In fact, he beat Federer and Djokovic last year and won 2 Masters 1000 titles in 2017. He defeated Djokovic (world no. 2) in Rome 6-4, 6-3 and Federer (world no.1) in Montreal 6-3, 6-4 which are both very impressive wins and building block matches for the years to come.

However, I do have to caveat that last year Murray, Nishikori, Wawrinka, Nadal and Raonic were injured the last part of the year and with those guys in play, then the second half of the year would have had a very different equation. But, either way...kuddos to Zverev.

The thing is that I believe he reached the top 10 too early and we can expect to see many growing pains this year. This is no different than Becker, Sampras, Agassi, and Federer when they had just entered the tour and became top 10. Being a young player at the top involves a lot of maturity, calm, poise and resilience, which takes significant time. In the Grand Slam events since Zverev  reached number 4 in the rankings, he has been lackluster losing to Coric in 4 sets (US Open 2017) and Chung (Australian Open 2018) where in the latter confrontation he won only 5 points in the fifth set and had a melt down. Even day before yesterday at the BNP Paribas tournament in Indian Wells he was eliminated in three sets in the first round by Joao Sousa (ranked 85) 5-7, 7-5, 4-6.

The important thing to remember is that while he can beat the top guys, 90% of the other players on the tour are not Federer and Djokovic and to get to the later stages in all these tournaments, he has to beat everyone in his draw. So while the ranking may indicate he can compete with the top guys, he still has a lot to achieve when it comes to beating his peers and the lower ranked players. Think of an iceberg and how the bulk of it is under water and only a little bit hits the surface of the water and is above. The tour is like this as well when it comes to the rankings.

We can be sure that Juan Carlos Ferrero, former world no. 1 and Federer's former rival and peer, is working actively with Zverev to help him become more mentally tough, improve his weaker forehand, deal with the tough match situations and being positive, take things in stride and set more realistic expectations for 2018 in terms of success. Interestingly enough after his loss in Australia, the Maestro Federer saw young Zverev in the locker room after his loss to Chung looking down and dejected and gave him some words of wisdom when it comes to success going forward, setting more reasonable expectations, and then working his way up.

Thought anyone?