The young guys are coming, the young guys are coming. That’s been the mantra all season. And after breakout performances from Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, Eugenie Bouchard, Nick Kyrgios and last year Jerzy Janowicz, their not just coming, they are here!
And today we can add another name to the growing mix of future talent, his name is Alexander “Sascha” Zverev. Earlier on Thursday the 17-year-old German overcame some nerves to beat a very clay-seasoned Santiago Giraldo 6-4, 7-6(6) to reach the quarterfinals of his home event in Hamburg.
I caught the second set and while I wouldn’t put his game quite on par with Dimitrov, Raonic or even a Dominic Thiem, remember HE’S JUST 17!!
And we just haven’t seen anyone that young beat three really quality players in Robin Haase, Mikhail Youzhny and Giraldo today, all in straight sets, on a tough clay surface, since Rafael Nadal or maybe Roger Federer!
So I know I’m climbing aboard this bandwagon but I feel checking out this kid is definitely worth your time. And maybe he never amounts to much or burns out or fizzles, but right now he’s putting up results no one else has done in 10 years or so. (According to the ATP, Zverev is the first 17 year old to reach the quarters Tour 500 tournament since Rafael Nadal reached the last eight at 2004 Dubai.)
Watching him play, he does have a lot of game, obviously (duh!). At 6-foot-4 he has a potent, simple serve – not massive like a Raonic’s – and he hits the ball very confidently off the ground, especially off the backhand which he can hit with power and if needed placement.
He’s not afraid of the net – Giraldo was consistently (and smartly) bringing him into the net – but he’ll need work up there. If he has a real weakness right now it’s his speed, muscle and return game. He also seems to have a bit of a temper.
But overall with his size and consistency he reminds of a weaker/smaller Juan Martin Del Potro or Marin Cilic (Cilic is the last 17-year-old to make any ATP SF at 2006 Gstaad). He attacks at the right moments, appears to be mentally strong – ok, he blinked serving for the match at 5-4 in the second, but very impressively regrouped saving a set point to win the last four points of the breaker 8-6.
And his father played on the tour and his brother Mischa Zverev is a pro also (ranked No. 350 after being in the Top 50), so he has a nice family support system already in place and should understand what the circuit is all about.
At a No. 285 ranking, which will spike way higher, we in the U.S. probably won’t see much of Zverev this summer, but maybe he can get through qualies somewhere like the U.S. Open. His wins this week were his first on the tour, and Hamburg is just his third career ATP level event.
His sponsor, HEAD racquets, did this profile on their budding star a few months ago after won he had won the Australian Open juniors:
And again, what I can overstate enough is he’s just 17 – he just turned that age in April! And beating guys like Youzhny, Giraldo and Haase on clay in straights is pretty damn good no matter what your age, ranking or experience. And tomorrow he plays fellow countryman Tobias Kamke who he beat a Challenger a few weeks ago. So this breakout run of his certainly can and hopefully will continue.
Suddenly the tour is getting younger. The cycles of tennis.
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