If Alexander Zverev isn’t the picture of tennis youth, it’s hard to imagine what is. Floppy haired, brightly attired and brimming with confidence, Zverev is beginning to post results that justify the considerable hype that has followed him recently. In the first match on the main stadium today, Zverev brought his best tennis — penetrating groundstrokes, quick movement, and, most importantly, poise to handle the tough moments, and ended up with an upset of 23rd seed Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
It’s a bit unfair to tarnish Dimitrov with the label of promise unfulfilled, but the 24 year old has not been able to get past the semis in a Slam in his eight years on the tour. While many would love to call that their best result, it can’t help but be disappointing for Dimitrov, considering that, at Zverev’s age, he was hailed as the next Roger Federer.
While his high profile personal life, counting Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova as his exes, is often blamed for his lack of progress, that seems like an awfully easy excuse. Dimitrov has certainly worked hard — no one who hires Roger Rasheed as a coach can be accused of slacking, given the Australian coach’s reputation for hard, physical training. And, Dimitrov’s talent level has never been in question — the flair and variety he brings to the court at times justifies the comparison with Federer.
But, today was less about Dimitrov’s mistakes and more about Zverev’s poise down the stretch. Down a break in the third, the German kept his head down and continued to press Dimitrov, until he was able to break back to 3-3, and then got to match point, aided by a lucky net cord at 15-30 while Dimitrov was serving at 5-6 in the final set. While Dimitrov was able to save the first match point, Zverev continued to hit deep, and caught another net cord on the second match point, and won the match.
The tennis tour has a way of grinding up its prospects, and there aren’t many harder positions to be in than that of the player who didn’t quite live up to expectations. While Dimitrov certainly hasn’t made the splash many expected, today was not a match he lost — it’s one that Alexander Zverev won, thereby grabbing the baton for tennis’ next great hope. From what we saw today, he just might be ready to carry it.
It seems to me that while Dimitrov’s strokes are beautiful, they lack the pace and punch to blow post an opponent. Those great wheels can only get him so far. At this point, he’s more of a poor man’s Richard Gasquet. Fun to watch, but not likely to make a deep run into the Top 10 or be a factor on the final weekend of the Slams.
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