Alexander Zverev still in ATP Finals contention despite three-set defeat to old master Roger Federer
If Roger Federer’s victory over Alexander Zverev right here on the Nitto ATP Finals felt like a reinforcement of the old guard’s maintain over the youthful technology, don’t attempt telling that to the 20-year-old German.
“I’ve played Roger six times now and we’re 3-3, if you count our Hopman Cup match,” Zverev identified after his 7-6, 5-7, 6-1 defeat. “I still have a very decent chance of being in the semi-finals.”
The format of this year-end competitors is such that gamers can lose one – and generally even two – of their three round-robin matches and still win the title. In Federer’s final look right here in 2015 the Swiss beat Novak Djokovic in the group section after which misplaced to him in the ultimate.
Federer has already secured his place in Saturday’s semi-finals and Zverev will be a part of him there if he wins his concluding round-robin match towards Jack Sock on Thursday night. Indeed there may be each risk of a Federer-Zverev ultimate on Sunday, which would supply an ideal ending to a season which has been a triumph for gamers at each ends of the age spectrum.
While 31-year-old Rafael Nadal and 36-year-old Federer, world No 1 and No 2 respectively, have shared the yr’s 4 Grand Slam titles, youthful gamers have been making their mark in a method that hardly appeared potential till not too long ago as the subsequent technology struggled to make an impression on their elders.
Two years in the past, when Chris Kermode, the top of the Association of Tennis Professionals, was making his preliminary plans for final week’s inaugural NextGen Finals, which introduced collectively the season’s most profitable 21-and-under gamers, he was anticipating most of them to be ranked between No 200 and No 300 in the world. Instead the bottom ranked participant who certified for the occasion was Daniil Medvedev, the world No 65.
It has been fairly a yr for younger weapons like Andrey Rublev, a 20-year-old Russian, and Denis Shapovalov, an 18-year-old Canadian. Rublev got here via qualifying on the yr’s first three Grand Slam occasions and have become the youngest man to attain the quarter-finals of the US Open for 16 years, whereas Shapovalov climbed 199 locations in the world rankings and made the fourth spherical at Flushing Meadows and the semi-finals in Montreal, the place he beat Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro.
The Next Gen Finals proved to be extremely profitable (Getty)
However, it’s Zverev who has towered above all his younger rivals, each bodily and metaphorically. The 6ft 6in German, who’s already up to No three in the world rankings, grew to become the youngest winner of a Masters Series title for 10 years when he beat Djokovic in the ultimate in Rome in May and added one other when he beat Federer in the Montreal ultimate in August. He has gained 5 titles in complete this yr.
Zverev was the primary participant to qualify for the NextGen Finals. Such was his enthusiasm for the occasion and his satisfaction at being a part of the game’s new wave that he had to be persuaded to pull out of it in order to focus his consideration on this week. Even so, he still insisted on enjoying an exhibition match in Milan in assist of the match.
Federer has seen shut up how good the German might be. Zverev beat him on grass at Halle final yr, in Perth in January on the Hopman Cup exhibition occasion and in Montreal this summer time, although the Swiss harm his again in the course of the latter match.
Zverev beat Federer in Montreal (Getty)
“I like what I am seeing with Sascha,” Federer mentioned after his victory right here. “I see any person who’s working in direction of the longer term. Of course it’s actually essential proper now to have success. He had that with two huge wins in Rome and Montreal. That’s going to defend his season anyway. The relaxation is all a form of bonus.
“What I like to see is I really feel like [his team are] working in direction of how he might be enjoying when he’s 23, 24 years old in phrases of health, planning, organisation, all this stuff. I feel that’s good to see.
“Now, the future? It seems like the young guys in general need a bit more time to break through these days, even though I’m really happy to see that there are the likes of Shapovalov or Nick [Kyrgios], now also Zverev, making the move early, like Rafa, Andy [Murray], Novak and Lleyton [Hewitt} did. They were such great teenagers.”
Federer has been impressed with the younger German’s rise (Getty)
He added: “What I like about Zverev is he is bought the complete package deal. He’s already No three in the world. I feel he is going to go away the World Tour Finals, regardless if he qualifies for the semis or not, with lots of data.
“I think the last six months of the season gave him everything he needs to work forward to. Then, of course, he’s only going to get stronger from here. That should be very encouraging for him and his team.”
The old master, however, taught his younger opponent a lesson or two. While Federer rode his luck at occasions, significantly when Zverev let the primary set tie-break slip away, the Swiss demonstrated but once more how a lot he thinks in regards to the sport and the way to beat specific opponents. By taking the tempo off the ball along with his sliced backhands, Federer uncovered some frailties in Zverev’s forehand.
“I think I was able to read his forehand this time better than in Montreal, where he had a lot of winners, forehand and backhand,” Federer mentioned afterwards. “I was able to stay the course and use my slice quite effectively, then try with variation to go into his forehand.”
Although Zverev, in the end, was unable to do something about it, the German knew what was occurring. “I think people have realised that if you go fast to my backhand with a lot of spin I quite like it, so maybe people are starting to change it up, go a little bit more with the slice,” the German mentioned.
Besides, he is aware of there isn’t any disgrace in dropping to Federer. “He’s the best player of all time,” Zverev mentioned. “He’s always going to find a way to try to disturb your rhythm a little bit and try to win.”