London A Case Of 'Before And After' For Zverev
As someone who has witnessed first-hand Alexander Zverev's growth in the span of a year, coach Juan Carlos Ferrero has no doubt that his pupil is experiencing a breakthrough moment at this year's Nitto ATP Finals. Sunday's opening round win over Marin Cilic is just a preview of what's to come from the 20-year-old, both this week and beyond, according to the Spaniard.
"What we are witnessing is a before and after for Sascha," said Ferrero. The former Emirates ATP Rankings No.1 came on board as a coach alongside the #NextGenATP star's father, Alexander Sr., over the summer. "His experience this week in London will come in handy; he's learning how to handle himself during these types of events. That's essential to his growth."
Zverev showed signs of what was to come back in January when the German, ranked No. 24 at the time, pushed eventual finalist Rafael Nadal to five sets in a losing effort in the third round of the Australian Open. A few weeks later, Zverev claimed his first championship of the year by outlasting the likes of Jeremy Chardy, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet en route to the Open Sud de France title in Montpellier. His breakthrough into the Emirates ATP Rankings Top 10 came at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Rome, where Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic in the final, becoming the youngest Masters 1000 titlist since a 19-year-old Djokovic won the Miami Open presented by Itau in 2007.
Despite the accolades, Ferrero admits that Zverev has felt the pressure that has come with his meteoric rise. Ferrero has done his best to help Sascha manage his success and the expectations that come with it.
"It has been a very important year for him," Ferrero said. "These accolades have all come very quickly, and that's something that he has struggled to handle at times. Part of my goal is to keep him balanced and not to lash out when things don't go his way. That will improve over time, but I'm trying to accelerate that process. He has to keep growing, keep gaining experience and this week in London is a good opportunity to do just that."
Ferrero's own mentor, Samuel Lopez, is also present in London as current coach of Pablo Carreno Busta, who narrowly missed out on qualifying but will play two matches as an alternate. Lopez is equally impressed with Zverev's improvement as a player as he is with Ferrero's handling and guidance of the young talent.
"They say it's harder to get to the top than it is to stay there," Lopez said. "You have to have the right set of weapons to perform consistently at the highest level; above all, you need to have a competitive edge and have what it takes to play under adverse situations. Sascha has that along with natural qualities so he's here to stay. Juan Carlos is very demanding; he's a professional and that will rub off on Sascha."