‘There's one thing missing’ – Alexander Zverev targets maiden Slam after crushing Daniil Medvedev - ATP Finals diary
“I kind of have succeeded on every single level, and there's one thing missing. I hope I can do that next year,” said Zverev on Sunday, stating clearly his intention of clinching a maiden Grand Slam trophy. Reem Abulleil has the latest ATP Finals diary after Zverev won the event for the second time as he defeated defending champion Daniil Medvedev in a surprisingly one-sided maiden final in Turin.
He’s only 24 but the question of whether he will finally win a major looms large for Alexander Zverev, who owns 19 career titles, including two ATP Finals crowns, five Masters 1000s and an Olympic gold medal in singles.
“I kind of have succeeded on every single level, and there's one thing missing. I hope I can do that next year,” said Zverev on Sunday, stating clearly his intention of clinching a maiden Grand Slam trophy.
Daniil Medvedev, who lifted his first major title at the US Open two months ago, believes Zverev has what it takes to conquer the Grand Slam stage but adds that the competition is fierce among this rising generation.
“There are a lot of great players who don't have a Grand Slam title, if you talk about ex-players or players right now. Stefanos (Tsitsipas) was up 2-0 against Novak (Djokovic) in the Roland Garros final, played exceptional clay-court season. He could have it, as well. Sascha was serving for the match in the US Open (final in 2020),” said Medvedev.
It's tough to say. You never know where your career is going to go. Some players start to play worse, somebody gets injured, somebody wins 20 Grand Slams. It's the same about Sascha.
“He is a great player that is capable of beating anybody. He definitely can win a Grand Slam because it's just obvious. But he's not the only one. That's where it gets tough. He was in the semis in the US Open, and lost in five sets. Who knows, maybe if he was in the final, he would beat me.
“It's just a matter of every tournament is a different scenario, different surface. You need to win seven matches to be a Grand Slam champion. Is he capable? Yes. Is he going to do it? We never know.”
Medvedev expects Zverev to win a Grand Slam soon
Champions get their revenge
In both singles and doubles this week in Turin, the eventual champions lost to an opponent in the group stage then reversed that result in their final rematch a few days later.
German world No.3 Zverev fell to Medvedev in their round-robin clash on Tuesday before avenging that defeat in Sunday’s title decider.
It was the third meeting between the duo within the span of 15 days – Zverev also lost to Medvedev in the Paris Masters earlier this month – and it saw the German snap a five-match losing streak to his Russian rival.
In doubles, French pair Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert were defeated by Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in their Red Group showdown on Wednesday but turned the tables on the American-British team to secure the title on Sunday.
France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (L) kiss the trophy as they celebrate after winning against USA's Rajeev Ram and Britain's Joe Salisbury during their Doubles final match of the ATP Finals at the Pala Alpitour venue in Turin on November 21
Image credit: Getty Images
Medvedev explained the thought process of facing the same opponent twice in the same week and said he found the challenge intriguing, describing it almost like a chess match.
“I think at our level it's interesting because, of course, we're all going to try to do something different, to prepare differently, to play differently. I felt that he was doing something differently. Maybe I lost the first break of serve because of this,” said the world No.2.
I tried to change up things I have been doing. I felt that it was working good, but I just couldn't return his serve a few times. It was enough for him to win the match.
“Talking about the psychology, I don't know, it's not that tough for me. It's interesting for me. Every time you know that he's going to try to do something new, you're going to have to be prepared for it. Same for them. Okay, he won against me this time, next time I'm going to try to be better, try to do something better than him and win. Yeah, I like it.”
Zverev knew he had to bring his A-game to have any chance against Medvedev and he finally notched his first win over the Russian since the 2019 ATP Finals.
“You beat me five times in a row so thank you for letting me win once as well,” Zverev said during the trophy ceremony.
‘He’s Benjamin Button’
At 39 years of age, Mahut continues to deliver on the sport’s biggest occasions. His long-time partnership with fellow Frenchman Herbert remains as fruitful as ever and they close the chapter on 2021 with a second ATP Finals triumph.
During their seven-year run as partners, Mahut and Herbert completed the career doubles Grand Slam together, added a second Roland Garros crown to their resume last summer, and have become the first all-French team to win multiple titles at the ATP Finals.
“He’s Benjamin Button, he’s going the other way. He’s just playing better and better and it’s just an honour to be on the court with him. Sharing the court with him is really a privilege,” Herbert said of his ageless compatriot.
Mahut hopes to continue playing with Herbert “for a few more years” and spoke about what it takes for a 39-year-old to be this competitive at the highest level in tennis.
“It's everyday work,” said Mahut.
I cannot stop for more than two days, I would say. It's every day I have to do gym [work], stretch, practice. Sometimes it's not easy. I have a family, too. Sometimes I'm tired.
“But they're still around me, pushing me to do it. If I don't, I know my level will drop. I still want to play. If I keep playing at my age, it's because I still have some big goals and want to be competitive. Maybe I need to work harder than before.”
Herbert quickly interrupted his partner to add: “Nico is becoming a yoga master. He was one of the guys that had no flexibility at all. Actually he's becoming...his goal is to be (as flexible as) Djokovic. He's still on the path.”
Herbert gave his family a shout-out during his victory speech and said it was extra special to have his wife Julia and their one-year-old daughter Harper with him in Turin.
“It's been a challenging year because I became a dad. Especially also with Covid, because they couldn't travel everywhere, I had a lot of weeks alone. It's a pretty strange feeling because when you're away, you just miss them so much. You're kind of depressed. When they're here, you have to find the balance to be competitive on court,” explained Herbert.
“But I think we've learned a lot with Julia and also with Harper. I'm just so happy to share this moment with them.”
Mahut added: “I'm happy he became a dad this year because he understands better. Sometimes, like he said, it's not easy to leave the family just after Christmas when we're going to Australia. Now he understands what it takes to travel without the family. So it's good also for me.”
Message for Peng
After wrapping up with the win over Ram and Salisbury, Mahut took the opportunity to write “Where is Peng Shuai?” on the camera lens, shedding more light on the worrying situation with the Chinese ex-doubles world No.1.
“We need to get news from her personally,” said Mahut. “Of course, I couldn't say anything on court when I have the camera. Yeah, I was thinking about her. I hope she's safe. We need more, definitely.”
A successful opener for Turin
Medvedev and Zverev both gave Turin a resounding stamp of approval, deeming the inaugural edition of the ATP Finals in northern Italy a great success.
An enthusiastic crowd turned up for most sessions at the Pala Alpitour, and it eased any worries people may have had about the tournament’s move from London after 12 successful years at the iconic O2 Arena.
“Obviously London the last 10 years was an incredible event, but for me personally, but I’m also holding the trophy right now, Italy has topped it,” said Zverev on court. “What does make it so special here in Italy is the fans, because the fans are absolutely insane; it’s the loudest crowd, it’s the most energetic crowd, Rome every year is one of my favourite tournaments of the year, I think this one has topped it. I can’t wait to play in Italy every single time of my career. I love Italy so much and I hope Italy loves tennis just as much.”
Mahut said he was “surprised” at how many spectators showed up to watch the doubles matches and Herbert agreed.
“There's a good crowd here. I feel like the Italians, they love tennis. They're big tennis fans. It's nice to come in this country and play here,” said Herbert.
“It's the first year. It's still a Covid year. It's still a special way of organising an event. I think, yeah, they've done a good job for a first year.”
Stats of the day
With victories over Djokovic in the semis and Medvedev in the final, Zverev is just the fourth player in tournament history to earn semi-final and final wins over the top-two players in the ATP rankings, joining Ivan Lendl (1982), Stefan Edberg (1989) and Andre Agassi (1990).
Zverev ends the year at the top of the ATP match-wins leaderboard with 59 victories amassed in 2021. Medvedev is right behind him with 58.
This is the first season where Zverev has managed to win six titles.
Zverev struck 61 aces through five matches in Turin. He landed 75 percent of his first serves in and won 97 percent of his service games (56/58).