Twenty four hours after being booed for having the audacity to take down a tennis great, Alexander Zverev returned to topple another one.
He stunned world number one Novak Djokovic to win the ATP Finals title on Sunday with a 6-4 6-3 victory.
Zverev has been billed as the player most likely to lead the sport into a new golden era.
That is once the holy trinity of Roger Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have hung up their rackets.
On Sunday, he took full advantage of the off-key Serb.
Hamburg-born Zverev had been shamefully booed and heckled on Saturday by a Federer-worshipping crowd having beaten the six-time champion after a controversial second-set tiebreak.
Against Djokovic, however, the 18,000 fans wedged into the cavernous O2 arena were roaring their support as he produced a level of tennis his opponent could not match.
He struck 20 winners to Djokovic’s seven — the last of which was a backhand to end a one hour and 19 minute duel.
“I really can’t describe it. It is the biggest title I have ever won,” Zverev said on court.
He became the first German to win the ATP’s most prestigious title — often referred to as ‘the fifth slam’ — since Boris Becker in Frankfurt in 1995.
In becoming the youngest ATP Finals champion since Djokovic, also 21, in 2008, Zverev sent out a clear message.
That, he is ready to spend a considerable amount of time at tennis’ top table and start accumulating the game’s biggest prizes.
Djokovic had shockingly put up an error-strewn display after a dominant week in south east London, which included an easy round-robin win over Zverev.
He sportingly walked around the net to congratulate his conqueror after match point — the German still laying on his back in a state of disbelief.
Later, Djokovic told reporters: “There’s a lot of similarities in terms of trajectory of professional tennis, in our careers. Hopefully he can surpass me.
“There’s a lot of time ahead of him. (I) Wish him to stay healthy and obviously win a lot of titles.”
Zverev, younger brother of Tour pro Mischa and now coached by eight-times major champion Ivan Lendl, is yet to go past the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam.
That is still the test next year.
But on Sunday he displayed an added sense of maturity, to go with the natural flair and easy power that have marked him out as a future number one.
His forehand, often regarded as a weakness, was armour-plated and he showed a refreshing willingness to attack the net — a skill he perhaps has learned from his brother.
Most impressive was that he often prevailed in the long, attritional baseline rallies in which Djokovic has used as the foundation for 14 Grand Slam titles.
The opening eight games resembled a boxing match with both players probing for weaknesses, although it was evident that Zverev’s packed the more powerful punches.
Djokovic, winner of 35 of his last 37 matches during a dominant second half of the year which propelled him back to world number one, had not dropped serve all week.
He had faced only two break points in his four previous matches.
But at 4-4 he wavered as he yanked an edgy forehand halfway up the net to give Zverev the chance to serve for the set.
Zverev took his opportunity in emphatic fashion, blasting down three consecutive aces and then winning the set when another Djokovic forehand flew long.
An increasingly-ragged Djokovic then dropped his opening two service games of the second set, either side of breaking Zverev for the first time as the German played a rare loose game.
The crowd still expected a Djokovic fightback, but it never materialised and at 3-5 the 31-year-old crumbled, serving a double-fault to help Zverev earn two match points.
He saved the first but was left standing as Zverev conjured a stunning backhand to cap a brilliant display.
Speaking of his victory later, Zverev said,
“Obviously it’s quite astonishing, winning this title, beating two such players back-to-back, Roger and Novak, in semi-finals and finals. (It) means so much,” Zverev told reporters.
“I’m incredibly happy and incredibly proud right now.”
Zverev said he believes the new generation are starting to make inroads.
“Obviously us (we) young guys, we’re coming through,” he said. “We’ve still got multiple years for all of us ahead. A lot of things can happen. A lot of things can change.
“I’ll do everything I can to be on top. But the other guys are playing great tennis, as well.”
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...