By Ros Satar, at the Nitto ATP Finals
LONDON, UK – Alexander Zverev hit the heights after downing World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to win the Nitto ATP Finals – the biggest title of his career.
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Alexander Zverev  def. Novak Djokovic  6-4 6-3
It had been a tumultuous path for the German, having had to experience the crassness of boos coming from disgruntled Federer fans after he ousted the six-time champion in a somewhat controversial second-set tie-break.
He had played some sublime tennis against John Isner in his final round-robin match, after falling away badly in his match against Djokovic. Then he raised that level still higher to play controlled n aggressive tennis against Federer – and regardless of the incident in the tie-break he most likely would have won anyway.
He played that same tennis against Djokovic and did to the Serbian what he often does to others. The first set was as intense and competitive as their first encounter in London a few days ago, but this time the German who would take full advantage of a chance to break. He was the only player who had break points over Djokovic in the group stage and this time he made it count breaking at the end of the set for a 5-4 lead and serving it out comfortably.
His break at the start of the set was immediately quelled by Djokovic, but again there was no fade-out by Zverev as he broke back for the advantage, and by now Djokovic was beginning to look gassed in the long rallies.
It was fitting that Zverev would come out and swing for the fences, breaking Djokovic to win his biggest title yet, as he fell to the floor emotional, with Djokovic crossing the net to congratulate him.
Zverev was the youngest finalist since Juan Martin Del Potro, and on a day where Djokovic was not only vying to equal Roger Federer’s six titles, he would also have become the oldest player to win the title – so perhaps now we are seeing a changing of the guard?
We could be witnessing a changing of the guard, as the dry-humoured youngster faced the press.
“Obviously this is the biggest title of my career so far. This trophy means a lot, everything, to all the players. I mean, you only have so many chances of winning it. You play against the best players only. How I played today, how I won it, for me it’s just amazing.
“Today, the mindset, I just wanted to enjoy being out there, I just wanted to enjoy competing and playing against the best player in the world. The trophy, I was very happy, but I was very happy to lift it up.”
Much has been made of his partnership with Ivan Lendl, who helped Murray to Slam and Olympic glory, but Zverev also maintains that his father is the best coach of his career.
“Everything I do on the court is thanks to my dad because he’s been there for the past 21 years. That’s how it is. I mean, he built my foundation. He built the person that I am. Obviously there’s a lot of credit to Ivan. I always say that. But my dad deserves the most credit out of everyone.
“He obviously analysed the match that I played with him a few days ago, told me a few things I had to do different. I was more aggressive today. I tried to take the ball earlier. Those kind of things. The experience he has on and off the court, is amazing. That helped me, as well, to kind of play the two matches that I played back-to-back now.”
For Djokovic there is still a great deal to celebrate. At the beginning of the year the frustration was clear in his game, but the last six months have been remarkable, clinching the No. 1 and the coveted year-end spot, but equalling Federer’s title tally will have to wait – for now – as he assessed the potential of young conqueror.
Djokovic said: “I’m happy that he won the big title because we have a really good and friendly relationship. We reside in the same place. We train a lot. We see each other a lot. He comes from a really nice family. As he said on the court, share a lot of on-and-off-the court friendly and respectful moments. I mean, obviously you could see how much it means to him. Obviously he deserved it.
“There’s a lot of similarities in terms of trajectory of professional tennis, in our careers. Hopefully he can surpass me. I mean, I sincerely wish him that. He seems like someone that is very dedicated. Without a doubt, he’s a really nice person, someone that gets along very well with everyone. He deserves everything he gets so far. There’s a lot of time ahead of him. Wish him to stay healthy and obviously win a lot of titles.”
Djokvic will start his new season at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships, while Zverev will partner Angelique Kerber at the Hopman Cup.
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