Alexander Zverev, currently ranked 118th in the world, may not be a household name for tennis fans that only follow the Grand Slam tournaments. However those that follow tennis more broadly know that the German, who just turned 18-years old on April 20th, is a player that may be destined for the top. The younger brother of Mischa Zverev and the son of a former professional, Alexander may be the best tennis player that the more casual tennis fans have yet to hear about.
For those wondering who the next big star might be on tour, we’ll introduce Zverev now.
The Hamburg native, who towers at 6’6″, enjoyed a successful junior career that included a title at the Australian Open in 2014. In ATP level events, Zverev, at time of writing, is not very experienced and he is just 5-11 in 250-level events or higher. However even just five career wins is not that bad of a total for a player who is barely 18 years old. With his current ranking of World No. 118 (April 20th, 2015 rankings), it’s interesting to compare Zverev’s age/ranking correlation to the age/ranking correlation of proven great players.
Novak Djokovic for example, the current World No. 1, makes for an interesting comparison. The day after the Serb turned 18-years old about ten years ago he had an impressive ranking as well. However Zverev’s current ranking is higher than what Djokovic’s was the day after the Serb turned 18. Back on May 23rd, 2005, Djokovic was ranked 153rd in the world – a full 35 spots below what Zverev is ranked now.
Roger Federer, the current World No. 2, is another interesting player to compare Zverev to. The Swiss Maestro turned 18-years old on August 8th, 1999 and at that time he was ranked 106th in the world, a shade better than Zverev.
That the German teenager has achieved an impressive ranking for an 18-year old is definitely a factor worthy of consideration when looking ahead at future stars. Zverev, in the years ahead, could definitely challenge for the top spot on tour and he’s already given some proven players a bit of trouble.
Grigor Dimitrov, for example, is a player with ambitions of challenging for the World No. 1 ranking. Currently 23-years old, Dimitrov has not spent that much time in the Top Ten yet although he is a dangerous player in whatever event he enters. Zverev, playing in Basel last season, dropped a match to Dimitrov however the match did not go the Bulgarian’s way at all points. Zverev took the second set off of the then World No. 11 before losing in three.
To date, Zverev’s only significant run in a tournament came in an event that was hosted in his own city. Playing in ATP Hamburg, a 500-series event, Zverev won his quarter of the 2014 draw at the expense of a former Top Ten player in Mikhail Youzhny. Furthermore, the Hamburg native also defeated a trio of established ATP veterans, namely Robin Haase, Santiago Giraldo, and Tobias Kamke.
Zverev, although he has a career match-win in the Masters Series, has yet to make an appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament. That could be just one reason why a lot of casual tennis fans may not know he is yet as the Grand Slam events are where players are best able to make names for themselves. But, provided that Zverev tallies a few more wins on the tour-level in the weeks ahead, he could be in Grand Slams as early as this summer. You never really know when the next phenom is going to burst on scene and perhaps Zverev will make headlines for himself in the months ahead.
Yet we can’t forget that growing pains are common for the young players so perhaps there are some in the future for the 18-year old German. What could also be pointed out with Zverev is that his height could pose more of a problem than an asset when it comes to succeeding on the ATP Tour.
Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal are the players that have won multiple Slams since the start of the 2010 season and they are all below 6’3″. Players that are as tall as Zverev do win Slams here and there and both Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro are cases in point. However the taller players are also injury-prone as both Cilic and Delpo, following their respective Grand Slam wins, spent months recovering from injury not long after.
In conclusion, I don’t think Zverev will become the World No. 1 in the years ahead however I do think he will be a player in the mix. He is one of the best players that many tennis fans outside of Germany may not have heard of yet.