So this is what tennis looks like after Nadal, Federer and the all conquering Australian Open champ Novak Djokovic – two 20-somethings vying to find the key to unlocking a maiden championship.
German 22-year-old Alexander Zverev thinks he may have hit on the formula by working on a better tennis-life balance, while 26-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem just wants to soak in being the more experienced guy.
The pair meet on Rod Laver Arena Friday night [Nine Network from 7pm] for the right to be the underdog in Sunday’s final against Djokovic – a man who has won the past seven Australian Open titles.
Zverev is pinching himself that he has made it this far, having endured three embarrassing defeats at the ATP Cup.
The seventh seed credits his improvement to taking a more relaxed approach in recent weeks.
“I’ve done well at other tournaments. But the grand slams were always the week where I wanted it too much,” Zverev said.
“I was doing things in a way too professional. I was not talking to anybody. I wasn’t going out with friends. I wasn’t having dinner. I’m doing much more things outside the court.
I actually came into the Australian Open with absolutely no expectations because I was playing horrible.
“At the ATP Cup I was playing bad, and the weeks before.”
Zverev has pledged to hand over all his prize money towards bushfire relief if he wins his maiden grand slam.
“(My parents) always said that money is something that should cause change in the world and should be put into a good thing, not keep it in a bank account and do nothing with it,” Zverev said.
But to donate the $4.12 million, he will have to get past Thiem, who downed world No.1 Rafael Nadal in four sets.
Thiem has a 6-2 record against Zverev, with the 26-year-old Austrian winning their last two matches.
However, Zverev can take solace in defeating Thiem in a 2018 final in Madrid.
“We have no secrets from each other,” Thiem said. “I mean, we played so many times, also on very special occasions already, at the ATP Finals, semis, French Open quarters.
“It’s a nice rivalry we have. It’s great that we add an Australian Open semi-final to this one.”
“For me it’s funny because it’s the first time in a grand slam semi-final that I face a younger guy,” said Thiem.
“We’re good friends and I’m happy for him, as well, that he’s playing so good here, that he made his breakthrough at a grand slam.