German wunderkind Alexander Zverev, who is fresh off winning his debut ATP title at the St. Petersburg Open, has shown tennis enthusiasts signs of his ascent in the ATP rankings for some time now. The 19-year-old, in his third final on the ATP World Tour, defeated 2016 US Open champion and three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka for the title.
Zverev’s beginnings, already, are echoing those of his idol, Roger Federer. Both were 19 years and 5 months old when they won their first titles. Both played hard-fought careers, over three finals, before defeating more-experienced players.
Interestingly, it was that idol, Federer, whom Zverev defeated earlier this year on what is undisputably Federer’s favourite surface – grass. Ousting Federer at the semi-finals of the ATP500 Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, Zverev lost to compatriot Florian Mayer after having lost yet another final at the ATP250 Nice Open in France.
And Zverev has declared hiimself with a bang. An in-form Stan Wawrinka, fresh off pulling off some stamina-defying victories at the US Open and winning that title - and his third Grand Slam, was on a streak of eleven straight finals. Wawrinka had not been a frontrunner for the title – but also never an underdog, and the then two-time Grand Slam champion quickly became the man to beat.
The 19-year-old German has already been ascribed many monikers – among them ‘future No. 1’. Well on his way to proving that title, Zverev has already become one of the youngest ATP title-holders, and with his win at St. Petersburg, joins an elite list of players that includes Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and US Open champion Marin Cilic.
Already the youngest player in the top 30, the teenager has climbed quickly up the rankings to No. 24. The April-born player could stand to become one of a select number of tennis players to end the year in the ATP top 20 as teenagers.
St. Petersburg marks the first time in eight years that a teenager has won a title on the ATP World Tour; the last player to do so was Marin Cilic, who won top honours at New Haven in 2008.
Should he be able to ascend up the rankings – and given his current form, he looks in good nick to do so – Zverev will become the seventh player in the last two decades to end the year inside the top 20 as a teenager.
The most recent player to achieve that ideal was current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who was 19 when he ended 2006 ranked 16th in the world. No. 2 and 2016 Wimbledon winner Andy Murray finished that same year only a spot behind Djokovic, at 17th. Also achieving that ideal is former No.1 Lleyton Hewitt, regarded as one of the game’s prodigies.
That alone should be indicative of big things to come for Zverev in the future, and the teenager has consistently proved the hard work he has been putting into his career.
With a number of ATP250 and 500 events to come in addition to two Masters events – the Shanghai Rolex Masters and the BNP Paribas Masters, Zverev could well tidy up with a decent points tally to cap what has been an incredibly successful year for the young player.