Mischa's Maiden Moment: Zverev Takes Eastbourne Title
Old school tennis is alive and well in 2018. Employing an exclusive serve-and-volley gameplan, Mischa Zverev turned back the clock to take his first ATP World Tour title on Saturday at the Nature Valley International.
Zverev lifted his maiden trophy on the grass of Eastbourne with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Lukas Lacko, sprinting forward and slicing and dicing his way to the crown after one hour and 37 minutes. He is the eighth first-time winner on the ATP World Tour in 2018, matching last season's total.
"It feels amazing," said an emotional Zverev. "It was definitely one of the emotional moments in my life. Beating Andy Murray in Australia was special, but there you win a match, you're still in it and the tournament's not over. But here you're the last one standing at the end of the week and you have the trophy, so it's definitely a very unique feeling.
"I always wanted to win at least a title. For many years I didn't believe in myself. I didn't think I was going to do it, especially when I was ranked 1100. But thank God I have my family and my brother and the whole team, my wife who is always telling me, no, you can achieve things, you can do big things. Just believe in yourself, work hard, and it's going to pay off one day.
"Luckily I have them and luckily I was able to listen to them, believe in myself, and just keep working and wait for it. Finally, I'm here. It's incredible."
Eight years removed from his first appearance in a title match, on the hard courts of Metz in 2010, Zverev's moment in the spotlight was well worth the wait. His victory marks the fourth consecutive year in which a player over the age of 30 has entered the winners' circle for the first time.
30 & Over First-Time Winners (since 2015)
|2015||Victor Estrella Burgos||34||Quito|
Zverev was a blanket at the net throughout the encounter, charging forward to cover every inch of Centre Court. The change in rhythm would rattle Lacko, whose unforced error count steadily rose throughout the 97-minute affair.
The German's textbook grass-court tactics paid dividends, as he converted an immediate break opportunity in the opening game of the match. Lacko had few answers on a sun-kissed afternoon in the English coastal city.
Zverev would battle for a second - and decisive - break after a 21-point game midway through the second set. Lacko did well to turn aside five opportunities but was unable to deny the sixth, as Zverev claimed an unassailable lead by 4-2. He secured the title with an ace on his first championship point.
"I don't know what to say," Zverev added. "As a player, you work towards being the best, even if it's not maybe No. 1 in the world, but being the best in the tournament in that particular week. You know, there are so many tournaments, but it doesn't matter. If you're the last one there on Sunday or Saturday, then means you were the best in that week at this place. And this is something that everyone works for. It's just a unique and great feeling.
"I hope it's going to help me in the future. It's going to take pressure off of me. It's going to give me more confidence, show me that, like, I can play five matches and win them all and win the tournament and I can do it physically and mentally. So I hope it's going to help me."
When the body fails, perseverence prevails. Just three years ago, Zverev was on the brink of falling out of the ATP Rankings after a catalogue of injuries had the German reeling. Struck down by a fractured wrist, two fractured ribs, a herniated disc in his lower back, a small tear in the patella tendon in his knee, needless to say it has been a long journey to celebrate his maiden moment.
The 30-year-old joins brother Alexander Zverev as ATP World Tour titlists in 2018, marking the first time siblings have lifted singles trophies in the same season since 1989, when Emilio Sanchez and Javier Sanchez both tasted victory. He earns 250 ATP Rankings points, rising 16 spots to a projected No. 41, while also taking home €117,930 in prize money.
Lacko, meanwhile, falls to 0-2 in ATP World Tour finals, appearing in his first title match since a runner-up finish in Zagreb in 2012 (l. to Youzhny). Martin Klizan remains the only Slovakian to win a tour-level title in the last 15 years. He rises 21 spots to a projected No. 73 in the ATP Rankings.
Both players will next head to Wimbledon for the grass-court Grand Slam. Zverev opens against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, with a potential third-round clash against Rafael Nadal looming. Lacko faces qualifier Benjamin Bonzi in his opener, with top seed Roger Federer a potential second-round opponent.
Did You Know?
This was the seventh meeting between Zverev and Lacko. The German and the Slovakian have met at the ITF Futures and ATP Challenger Tour levels, as well as in ATP World Tour qualifying and main draws. Zverev has taken five of the seven encounters.