Profile | Alex 'Sascha' Zverev
This teenager has excelled since joining the family business. Is he the next male German major winner?
By Stephen Higgins | 11 February 2016
Angelique Kerber's victory in Melbourne made her the first German major winner since Steffi Graf back in 1999. On the men's side, the wait goes on.
2016 marks the 20th anniversary of Boris Becker's last grand slam trophy, also Down Under. Michael Stich and Rainer Schüttler came closest to breaking the dry spell, but hopes now rest on a mop-topped teenager from Hamburg.
And you know, he might just be up to the challenge.
Joining The Family Business
Alexander 'Sascha' Zverev was born April 20th, 1997 in Hamburg, northern Germany.
Sascha's parents, Alexander Sr. and Irina, were both tennis professionals and emigrated from Russia in 1991. Older brother Mischa is currently on the ATP Tour and was once ranked inside the top 50.
With that family history, it was no surprise when the youngster first struck a fuzzy ball aged five. What other career path could he take?
Zverev took to the ITF Junior Circuit in 2011, and played his first event in Poland at the age of 14. After a year to acclimatise, Sascha served up an extraordinary campaign in 2013.
The right-hander won two titles - Bealieu-sur-Mer and the Trofeo Bonfiglio - and reached the finals of Roland Garros, Prato and Roehampton.
He also made excellent runs at the US Open and Orange Bowl, and cultivated a fruitful doubles partnership with Russian Andrey Rublev.
The German earned a combined ranking of no. 1 and was crowned ITF Junior World Champion that December. He is only the third person from his country to do so after Becker and Graf.
With his sights fixed on the senior tour, Zverev completed some unfinished business when he lifted the Junior Australian Open in 2014.
A Homebird Soars
Zverev entered senior events not long after he joined the junior circuit. Apart from final and semi-final appearances at a couple of American Futures, the teenager did not truly make a breakthrough until 2014.
Fittingly, it came at home.
In July, the 17-year-old captured his maiden Challenger at Braunschweig, about 170 km south of his home town. That week saw impressive victories over tour veterans Tobias Kamke, Joao Souza, Andrey Golubev, and Paul-Henri Mathieu in the final.
A fortnight later, on his doorstep, Sascha excited locals and the tennis world by storming to the last four of the Hamburg 500. David Ferrer ended the fairytale but the youngster's raw talent was there for all to see.
Zverev started 2014 ranked 808th in the world. By the end of December he was 136th. Unlike the vast majority of players, Sascha immediately adapted to the ATP Tour.
Growth continued both on and off court in 2015. Now 6' 6" tall, and with a suitably powerful serve, Zverev climbed into the top 100.
Highlights of the year included a second Challenger title at Heilbronn, a semi-final run at Bastad, a quarter-final run at Washington and Zverev's first main draw appearances at Wimbledon and the US Open.
Impressive wins over Kevin Anderson, Juan Monaco, Thomaz Bellucci, Alexsandr Dolgopolov and Denis Istomin helped Zverev to a year-end ranking of 83, earning him the title of ATP Star Of Tomorrow for being the youngest player player inside the top 100.
Also in 2015, Sascha and his big brother made it to the doubles final in Munich, narrowly losing to Peya/Soares in a third set champion's tiebreak.
At 6' 6", you would expect Zverev to have a good serve and he certainly does. The German hit 203 aces in 31 matches on the ATP Tour in 2015. His average of 6.5 aces per match is higher than both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Zverev has a nice, smooth motion that looks reliable. He also has an effective kick second delivery.
Possibly the most impressive feature of the 18-year-old's game is his ballstriking. Zverev hits the ball off both wings with superb timing and more than enough power.
He tends to use more topspin on the forehand in order to create angles and force opponents back. I love his backhand. It's flatter and powerful enough to trouble anyone.
Zverev actually moves quite well for his height and can produce some nimble passing shots on-the-stretch when required.
One can criticise his attitude towards umpires and linespeople people which can be overly petulant.
In conclusion, I believe that Zverev has the most promise of his generation bar the enigmatic Nick Kyrgios. Sascha has the weapons to end Germany's wait for another male grand slam champion.