Former world No.1 Boris Becker believes Alexander Zverev’s recent run at the Australian Open was confirmation that he belongs at the top of men’s tennis.
Last month the 22-year-old achieved his best ever grand slam performance by reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne Park before losing to Dominic Thiem. At the tournament he scored wins over Andrey Rublev, who won two consecutive titles prior to the event, and former champion Stan Wawrinka. Zverev has been tipped as a future world No.1 in recent years and remains the only active player outside of the Big Four to have won three or more Masters trophies. Although he has previously struggled to shine in the biggest events of the sport.
“Alexander Zverev has made a great step forward with his first participation in a grand slam semi-final.” Becker told reporters in Berlin on Sunday. “Although he had difficult weeks before, for which there were reasons.”
At the start of the year it looked as if the world No.7 was in trouble. At the ATP Cup he lost all three of his matches played. A performance Becker blames on his off-season training. During November and December Zverev played a series of exhibition matches with Roger Federer across South America and China.
“He didn’t train enough during the winter break and came to Brisbane unprepared.” He said.
“We exchanged some serious words off the court and he took them to heart.’
“Of course I’m happy he had such success. This is also a confirmation for him that he belongs at the top of the world (in tennis).”
“But the competitors never sleep, that’s a never ending story. He has to confirm this again and again.”
So far in his career, Zverev has won 11 ATP titles and has been ranked as high as third in the world. His biggest triumph occurred towards the end of 2018 when he won the ATP Finals in London.
Reflecting on his Melbourne run last month, Zverev believes he managed to achieve the milestone thanks to a new approach he took to the event. Instead of looking at the whole tournament, he narrowed his focus to match-by-match.
“I went here in a different way. I went match by match. Didn’t look very far. I just knew I had opponents in front of me. I had to play well to beat them. That was it.” He said last month. “Whenever I won, I’d sit down in the locker room and somebody told me who I’m playing next.’
“I went step by step, match by match. Usually I [haven’t done] that in Grand Slams.”
Zverev will return to action next week at the Mexican Open in Acapulco. A tournament where he finished runner-up 12 months ago. Becker believes his compatriot could do some damage on the hard courts over the coming weeks with two prestigious North American events taking place next month in Indian Wells and Miami.
“The next tournaments are on hard courts in America. He will play there as well. There he can take a lot of points.” Becker concluded.