Original article by Luca Baldissera for UbiTennis.com
Translation by Ivan Pasquariello
After both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – who saved a match point against the German in their 4th round clash in Indian Wells – have praised Alexander Zverev, pointing out he could be the new upcoming World No.1, we decided to take into account the champions’ prediction and analyze Zverev’s game. Does he really have the potential to reach the top spot of the rankings in men’s tennis? Is he a near future Grand Slam winner? Let’s analyze the German’s game and see why, according to our technician, Alexander Zverev will indeed become World No.1.
“He’s a clear possible future No.1. He is an amazing player. He has all the shots“ has said Rafael Nadal. Roger Federer has invited Zverev more than once to practice with him, most recently at the Australian Open. Djokovic confirmed in California that the German has what it takes to climb up the ladder soon. Let’s have a closer look at Alexander’s shots to fully understand why he deserves such high praising from such champions.
HIS CONSISTENCY and MENTAL TOUGHNESS
Compared to the rest of the field of young guns, Alexander has those qualities no coach can teach, but that come natural, such as the attitude to stay aggressive on the ball, the ability to verticalize the game, the skill of cutting the court cross court to push the offence. Also the ability to play the points that matter with calm (even though the match point missed with Nadal could tell the contrary, but that has to do more with a lack of experience rather than fear).
Zverev has the consistency needed to climb the rankings, not just in his game but also mentally. For instance, Nick Kyrgios has the shots and the talent to win a major, but it seems hard to think and believe that he will be able to keep his mind straight and focused on the game for a full season without drops. Zverev, on the other hand, may count on the help coming from having a former top 50 player as his brother (Misha) and has the attitude that is needed from a player to stay on the top once that height is reached.
Here (on the top) is Zverev’s backhand on the aggression. It is an example to take: the combination of continental-eastern grip; the perfect rotation of the left foot followed by a powerful shift to the right foot; great roundness; the weight that moves horizontally following the level of the knees into the ball; the shoulders rotating exactly at 90 degrees; the shot that is accompanied in the final part staying in line with the court; closing with the heel of the racket that looks in the direction of the shot just hit.
Zverev can hit a very good sliced backhand (picture above) when he needs it. This shot helps appreciate how low he can go, while keeping his axis balanced even when recovering laterally. Descent of the head of the racket just perfect, end of the movement horizontally vertical, with the left arm acting symmetrically to the right one. Finally, great lunge with the knees. In this case the ball is just 30 cm (12 inches) from the ground, Zverev is 2 meters tall (6 ft 6 in) but manages to easily slice it.
The forehand hit above, Zverev hits a forehand pushing vertically. Semi-open stance, western grip, support on both feet with weight shifting from the right foot onto the left. It has to be noticed the ability to use the left arm to sustain and accompany the racket, which is kept vertically to use the whole oval, all the way until the start of the backswing. On the central frame on the top part of the photo, the moment the racket is let go of to go behind, the support is on the right foot, with the left foot lifted on the tip. In the central frame below in the pic, which represents the moment the ball is impacted, all the weight is unloaded on the left foot and is the right foot to be lifted off the ground, following the hit and knee.
In the picture above the forehand is in open stance, maneuvering from the baseline. In he top left frame once again the moment the left arm leaves the racket to help set the backswing, both feet are still falling back from the positioning step. Subsequently with the finishing of the preparation, the weight falls strong on the right foot. The left foot is initially dragged and from the hitting point on (the three bottom frames) is lifted compensating for the action of the right hip and right knee to then go down only with the conclusion of the movement in windshield wiper. Alexander doesn’t hit with full lift when semi-flanked, then easily finds the shot down the line. Otherwise he doesn’t lose on top spin, fully in open stance, with the same ease. Quite impressive to say the least.
On the picture above we focus on the preparation to serve. The technique is foot-up, with the little step forward of the back foot. In the central frame, in the moment the ball is tossed the support is on the left foot, and the right foot is starting to be brought forward with a slight rotation of the tip, up to the point where it hits the frontal foot with the heel.
Right after having touched with the heel, the back foot bounces back, rotating this time internally going to lean in parallel with the left foot. After that (central frame) Zverev brings the right knee forward towards the left while the ankle starts its exiting movement. This happens in advance compared to the shoulders’ rotation, which stay open all while getting to ”trophy position”. He acts like an elastic, very similar to what Karlovic does, working a lot with the shoulders and less with the bending of the back. He can afford to do that thank to his height.
Here above the conclusion of the movement. The wrist is fast in its pronation onto the forearm. There is the perfect alignment between arm-racket, hip and left foot in the moment of impact. It is a great serve.
Finally it is interesting to take a look at this video, shot at the US Open. This video shows Alexander’s perfect footwork.
THE FINAL PREDICTION
We have a 19-year-old boy who hits and pushes the ball with incredible ease, while remaining calm and focused on court. He has an incredible footwork. He works hard and has a perfect visual on the court. It will take time to build up the muscles, together with the incorporation in his game of the ability to move forward to take points at the net (the only aspect missing in his game at the moment). Then, here you have an authentic champion, someone who can win majors in a row.
He reminds of Marat Safin for his timing, ability to push the ball and hit with the backhand. Unlike Marat though, he has the ability to keep calm and never lose focus on the match.
A future World No.1? Possibly, probably….
REPORT: Grigor Dimitrov Appoints New Coach
The former ATP Finals champion appears to have found a new mentor.
Former top 10 player Grigor Dimitrov has found a replacement following the departure of Radek Stepanek, according to one Bulgarian news source.
TennisKafe.com has reported that the world No.20 is now working alongside Christian Groh. A German-born coach who has worked with a number of top players on the men’s tour. Including Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz. It is his work with Haas that Groh is best known for. During their 24 months together, he guided him from outside the top 200 to 11th in the ATP rankings.
The development comes a month after the 28-year-old stated that he was in no hurry to find a new mentor on the tour. Back in May he ended his collaboration with Dani Vallverdu after almost three years working together. He made the decision shortly before he exited the world’s top 50 for the first time since 2012.
“I’m not in a panic right now to find a coach. I always think that when I don’t have someone beside me, it’s hard to train. However, in the past months, I have done things myself that I have not done.” Dimitrov told reporters in November.
“You need to have freedom, to find yourself, to become closer to yourself.” He added.
Despite Stepanek stepping away, Dimitrov is still in contact with eight-time grand slam champion Agassi. Agassi is not a coach to the Bulgarian, but has agreed to a sort of consultation role where the two talk with each other regularly.
Dimitrov has experienced a roller coaster run on the tour this season with a win-loss record of 22-21. At one stage he failed to win back-to-back matches at six consecutive tournaments over the summer. However, his form surged during the last quarter of 2019 where he reached the semi-finals at both the US Open and Paris Masters.
Neither Dimitrov or Groh has yet confirmed their new partnership on the tour. Groh has recently been working as a consultant for the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
Heading into the new season, the first test for the duo will be at the ATP Cup in Australia. As well as playing, Dimitrov is the captain of the Bulgarian team.
Groh’s coaching CV
- 2011: Michael Berrer
- 2012-2013: Tommy Haas
- 2014: Bradley Klahn and Taylor Fritz
- 2015: Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz
- ATP/WTA Players and United States Tennis Federation Player Development since 2015
Since the publication of this article, Ubitennis has received some additional details on Dimitrov’s work with Groh. The editor of TennisKafe.com, Borislav Orlinov, confirmed it was Dimitrov’s manager (Georgi Stoimenov) who revelled the two will be working together. They are currently training in Monte Carlo, but will head to Australia before the New Year.
Rival Backs Dominic Thiem To Win Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award
Only two players have won the award since 2004.
For the past 15 years only two players have managed to get their hands on the prestigious Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, but one player thinks there could be a brand new winner this year.
Diego Schwartzman has lent his support behind world No.4 Dominic Thiem. The award recognizes those who have conducted the highest level of professionalism and integrity on the ATP Tour throughout the season. Established in 1977, Roger Federer has won the honour in 13 out of the past 15 years. The only other player to triumph during that period was Rafael Nadal, who won it in 2010 and 2018.
“I think Thiem can win it, he showed throughout the year a competitiveness and a respect with everyone that was spectacular,” Schwartzman told ole.com. “On top of that he is having great years of his career and this season was even better for the achievements he had.’
“He has a good chance of winning it.” He added.
Schwartzman, who reached the quarter-finals of the US Open earlier this year, has also been shortlisted for the award. Along with regular nominees Federer and Nadal. Only once has an Argentinian player won the title, which was José Luis Clerc back in 1981. At that time it was known as the ATP Sportsmanship award before getting renamed in 1996.
“I learned first (of getting nominated) through social networks rather than the official designation that the ATP sends you by mail.” The 27-year-old revealed.
“It is more spectacular than anything for the players I have next to me. It is a very important prize that recognizes a little what you do off the court, not only hitting the ball.”
Whilst he is dreaming of winning the honour himself, Schwartzman is just happy that he has been nominated.
“If I won this award, it would be spectacular. Now I am on that payroll that is very good and represents the values that I try to maintain on a day-to-day basis and that (my coaching teams over the years) have taught me. It is very nice to be recognized for that. “ He concluded.
The four nominees for the Stefan Edberg Award was shortlisted by the ATP. However, it will be the players who will decide the winner. The result will be revealed later this month.
Multiple winners of the Stefan Edberg/ATP Sportsmanship award
Roger Federer – 13
Stefan Edberg – 5
Pat Rafter – 4
Alex Corretja – 2
Todd Martin – 2
Paradorn Srichaphan – 2
Rafael Nadal – 2
Kei Nishikori In Doubt For The Australian Open
Asia’s highest ranked male tennis player is contemplating when he should return to the tour following surgery.
World No.13 Kei Nishikori is refusing to rule out the prospect of skipping the first grand slam event of 2020 as he continues his recovery from surgery.
Nishikori hasn’t played a match on the tour since his third round loss at the US Open back in September. A month later he underwent a procedure on his right elbow in a move that brought his season to an early end. Currently undergoing rehabilitation, it is unclear as to when the Japanese player believes he will return to the ATP Tour.
“The prospect of a return from surgery on right elbow in January. Maybe February. In the second half of next year I want to be able to play well.” Nikkan Sports quoted Nishikori as saying.
“I don’t want to overdo it,” he added.
The Australian Open will get underway on January 20th in Melbourne. Should he miss the grand slam, it will be the second time he has done so in the last three years. Nishikori also withdrew from the 2018 edition due to a wrist injury. In January he reached the quarter-finals and therefore has 360 points to defend next year.
During his time away from the court, the 29-year-old has been kept busy making changes to his team. Recently it was confirmed that he has started working alongside Max Mirnyi, who is a former world No.1 doubles player. Mirnyi, who has won 10 grand slam titles in men’s and mixed doubles, will be working full-time with Nishikori alongside existing coach Michael Chang.
“I’m getting closer to retirement. I want to be cured and come back to play good tennis in the second half of next year.” Nishikori stated.
Despite the injury setback, Nishikori has enjoyed success in 2019. Reaching the quarter-finals in three out of the four grand slam tournaments. The first time he has ever done that in his career. He also claimed his 12th ATP title at the Brisbane International. Overall, he won 29 out of 43 matches played.
Nishikori will turn 30 on December 29th.
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