Alexander Zverev has underlined his status as the next big thing in men’s tennis with a brilliant 6-4, 6-3 win over world No.1 Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals in London.
The 21-year-old German broke Djokovic’s serve four times throughout the match in a commanding performance which denied the Serb a record-equalling 6th title at the season-ending event in London.
Zverev stunned the crowd at London’s O2 Arena who had expected the world No.1 and firm favourite to have Zverev’s measure.
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Djokovic had not dropped a service game at the tournament and was looking to finish the year with another title win.
Zverev was booed during his semi-final with Roger Federer after defeating the Swiss legend in straight sets after a contentious call to replay a crucial point in the match riled the pro-Federer crowd.
He won them back less than 24 hours later with a bold display of aggressive and skilful tennis that simply overwhelmed Djokovic.
The win was the first by a German at the event since Boris Becker in 1995. As the Australian Open looms in January Zverev will be eying a tilt at a first Grand Slam success.
‘I really can’t describe it, it’s the biggest title I have won in my career” the German said after the match.
“Novak has been incredible and he has barely lost a match but I’m glad you lost one to me today,” he said.
The crucial moment in the match game in the eighth game of the first set.
With the score at 4-4 Djokovic’s usually lethal forehand lost its radar and Zverev was able to pounce, breaking the Serb’s serve and then holding his own to clinch the first set.
Whilst Djokovic was able to break the Zverev serve at the start of the second set he was twice broken himself and gave up the advantage to the young German who went on to claim the set 6-3 and win the title.
Zverev’s ranking at No.5 in the world now puts him firmly amongst the game’s elite players. It also provides perspective for Australia’s aspiring stars such as Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur that age is no barrier to entry to the top echelon of the sport.
For Djokovic, the loss was a shock but it doesn’t diminish his achievements in what has been a remarkable renaissance.
When he was beaten in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open by then world No.117, Uzbek Denis Istomin, it was a portent to a torrid year to come.
A split from his longtime coaching team and debilitating elbow injury had a crippling effect on his form and morale.
When he withdrew from the US Open that year and suffered a fourth-round exit at Melbourne Park to Korean Chong Hyeon earlier this year it felt as though Djokovic may never return to the height of his powers.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case.
Following elbow surgery, in March he returned to the practice courts and just a few months later claimed his fourth Wimbledon title by defeating South African Kevin Anderson in straight sets he hasn’t looked back.
Djokovic will end 2018 back at No.1 in the world but he also knows new challengers are coming.
A rematch at Rod Laver Arena in late January would be something to savour.