Zverev On Felix & Shapovalov: ‘They Will Be On Top’
Alexander Zverev has already won many important titles in his young career, including the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals and three ATP Masters 1000 tournaments. The German has been so successful, that it’s easy to forget he is still only 21.
Zverev would not be eligible to compete at the Next Gen ATP Finals anymore if he chose to, but the German expects some of the top #NextGenATP players to join him near the top of the ATP Rankings sooner rather than later.
“It’s funny because I’m 21 years old and I’ve been on Tour for basically five years now. I don’t like to say I’m better or everything like this. I mean obviously my [ATP] Ranking says it and I’ve won bigger titles, but everybody has their own way,” Zverev said. “I’ve played more tournaments than them. I’ve been on Tour longer, but in a few years’ time, nobody will remember that I was there quicker. I think those guys are great and I wish them nothing but the best. I think the new generation of tennis will be in good hands.”
The World No. 3 has been particularly impressed by Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, a pair of #NextGenATP Canadians. Both Auger-Aliassime, 18, and Shapovalov, who turned 20 on Monday, reached the semi-finals in Miami.
“Felix is obviously a little bit younger than us and he’s doing amazing. Canada has probably two Grand Slam champions growing up right now,” Zverev said. “Denis, even though he may be struggling a little bit more than everybody expected, trust me, he will be on top of the game soon and Felix as well. I think Canada, if everything goes well and no injuries occur or something like this, they will be on top of the game.”
Zverev could potentially face Felix in his opening match in Monte-Carlo. The 18-year-old needs to beat Cordoba champion Juan Ignacio Londero to set the blockbuster.
“He’s been one of the best young guys on Tour this year. He made the semis in Miami, made the final in Rio,” Zverev said. “I’m very happy for him because he’s one of the most humble and nicest guys that I know. He always walks around, even when he was younger, he’s still young but when he was just starting and the first few times that everybody saw him on the Tour he was always very polite and always very positive.
“For me, I’m not going to say I’m a fan of him, but I always kind of look after him because, first of all, he’s a great player, but also because he’s an unbelievably nice kid.”
For his part, Zverev is ready to turn over a new leaf on his 2019 season. After a strong start to the year, including a runner-up showing in Acapulco, the German got sick at Indian Wells, limiting his performance there and in Miami. Zverev has won multiple clay-court titles in each of the past two seasons.
“I enjoy playing on it. I’m one of those guys that looks forward to playing on it, not even because I win, but I enjoy the long rallies, I enjoy the running around, sliding around the court and stuff like this,” Zverev said. “Clay with indoor hard courts is probably my favourite surface right now.”
Zverev has won three of his trophies on indoor hard courts. So how does he translate his game to the slower clay surface?
“I try to be very aggressive always. But I’m also very tall, so I need space. I need space, I need time to have my big swings and be able to hit the ball and that’s what clay gives me,” Zverev said. “When I play heavy, it doesn’t matter what surface I play on. It’s more about where I have the timing, where I feel the most comfortable and so far it’s always been clay.”
The 2017 Rome and 2018 Madrid champion will hope that comfort pays off in Monte-Carlo, where he will try to complete his trio of clay-court Masters 1000 titles.