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Alexander Zverev in danger of being usurped by Next Gen contemporaries after latest Grand Slam no-show

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 22 Jan 2019
  • Alexander Zverev crashed out of the Australian Open on Monday, losing in straight sets to Milos Raonic
  • Zverev has made just one quarter final in 15 major appearances
  • Is the German star in danger of being overtaken by his Next Gen contemporaries?
Alexander Zverev. (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)

For the last couple of seasons, Alexander Zverev has been the clear leader of the ATP’s Next Gen, and the most likely of the lot to make his Grand Slam breakthrough, but given the events of the 2019 Australian Open, the 21-year-old is now in serious danger of being usurped by his Next Gen contemporaries.

In a way, Zverev’s meteoric rise has been a kind of shield for the rest of the young guns, who have been able to take their time to develop while the German takes the heat at the top, but other guys now look ready to strike, threatening to overtake the German. 

While Zverev still seeks his first major semi-final, Hyeon Chung and Stefanos Tsitsipas have made the last four in Slams within the last twelve months, and have beaten members of the big four to do so, while Frances Tiafoe has now matched Zverev in reaching a Grand Slam quarter final. He’s also not the only one who has got a Masters 1000 title as Karen Khachanov won in Paris last year, while Tsitsipas and Borna Coric made finals in Toronto and Shanghai respectively.

Zverev's Grand Slam woes continued on Monday as the German young gun crashed out of the Australian Open following a 6-1 6-1 7-6 loss to Canadian, Milos Raonic.

Defeat to Raonic means the world No. 4 has made just one Grand Slam quarter final in his 15 main draw appearances, and raises further questions over whether he has the temperament to string together seven best-of-five-sets wins within two weeks.

What cannot be questioned is Zverev's obvious talents- you don't get to spend over a year in the top 5 by accident- but his mental application has been found wanting over the last couple of seasons, as was the case again against Raonic on Monday.

Last year, he suffered fifth set capitulations against Chung and Ernests Gulbis at the Australian Open and Wimbledon respectively; and on Monday, it was a listless start against Raonic that effectively cost him any chance of winning.

"I played bad. The first two sets especially I played horrible", Zverev said after the match. "Yeah, I mean, it's just tough to name on one thing. I didn't serve well, didn't play well from the baseline. Against a quality player like him, it's tough to come back from that".

In a Grand Slam fourth round match against a player that has been as high as No. 3 in the world, and has made a Grand Slam final, you want to be focused and right on your game at the start, but for whatever reason, Zverev went walkabouts in the opening couple of sets, winning just two games in over an hour of tennis. The 21-year-old finally joined the party in the third set, but by then, Raonic already had too much of a head start, and the Canadian kept his cool to take the set on a tie break.

When Zverev won the Nitto ATP Finals last season, defeating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches, his serve was a major weapon, but that shot was almost non-existent on Monday, as he served just six aces and 10 double faults. He was particularly vulnerable on his second serve, winning just five of 22 points on that delivery.

“Yeah, I have been struggling with my second serve the whole week, actually”, he said. “I don't have a lot of rhythm on it, so I tried to figure that out, I tried to work on that. Hopefully I will be better next time”.

Zverev has been a victim of his early success- his elevated ranking and number of big titles at such a young age have created huge expectations and pressure both from the outside and within the player himself, and he has so far failed to deal with it. Problem is: The pressure will only go up with each passing defeat. And now, with his fellow Next Gen contemporaries coming on very strongly, and the old guard still hanging around, things are going to get even more difficult for the young German.

The good thing is that he is not beating himself up to much for his latest setback, which bodes well moving forward.

“I'm not happy, but I'm not depressed. It's fine. It's a tennis match. I have learned to take tennis matches as tennis matches and not the end of the world. If I would think it's the end of the world every time I lose a tennis match, I would be very depressed about 15 to 20 times a year. So I'm not going to do that”.

I still believe he will eventually win a few Grand Slams- he is too good a player not too- but it is not as clear cut as it once was that he will be the most successful of the next generation.

Australian Open is live from Melbourne from 14-27 January.

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Alexander Zverev in danger of being usurped by Next Gen contemporaries after latest Grand Slam no-show

Following Alexander Zverev's latest Grand Slam no-show, is he in danger of being overtaken by the other members of the ATP Next Gen?

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