The 2018 ATP World Tour came to a close last night, with Alexander Zverev pulling off a surprise victory over Novak Djokovic in London. This rounded off another brilliant season for the 21-year old German, who seems to be getting better and better with every tournament he plays.
It came at the end of an excellent week of tennis at the 02 Arena, with both men’s singles and doubles fixtures being played. The tournament features the eight highest-ranked players on the world tour, as of the most recent tournament. (Paris Masters, 29th October)
Notable absentees from this year’s curtain closer included Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro, who both withdrew late on due to their injuries. Japan’s Kei Nishikori and the USA’s John Isner took their places, being the next two down in the rankings. The other players were Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Roger Federer, Kevin Anderson, Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem.
The group stage matches, named ‘Guga Keurten’ and ‘Lleyton Hewitt’ after legends of the sport, featured some brilliant tennis.
In Group ‘Guga Keurten,’ Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic unsurprisingly won all three of his group games. He brushed aside Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and John Isner without dropping a single set. Zverev also overcame Cilic and Isner, the latter not winning any of his three matches.
In the ‘Lleyton Hewitt’ group, all four players managed to get at least one win to their name. 37-year old Roger Federer won two of his games but lost out in his battle with Japan’s Kei Nishikori. Although losing to Federer, Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson progressed to the semi-final stage with wins over Nishikori and Dominic Thiem.
The semi-finals saw Novak Djokovic take on Kevin Anderson, and youngster Alexander Zverev take on Federer, who plays with the energy and enthusiasm of a newly turned pro, not someone who’s pushing on 40 years old. However, it wouldn’t quite be enough this time, with Zverev edging out his boyhood hero 7-5/7-6 in a fantastic match. Unfortunately for Kevin Anderson, his game with Novak Djokovic was not as close, as he went down 6-2/6-2. The Serbian barely seemed to break sweat as he brushed the world number six aside, building his confidence even more for Sunday’s final.
Zverev had been beaten in straight sets by Djokovic in their group stage match but came out hard in the opening few games here. Surprising for many, it would be the world number one who would slip up first. At 4-4, Zverev capitalised on some of his opponent’s errors to break serve. The German then held his own serve to take the first set.
Despite being ranked outside of the top 20 in May, Novak Djokovic had won 35 of his 37 previous games in the runup to Sunday’s final. With this form behind him, along with the minor Pyschological boost of 14 Grand Slam titles, many in the 02 Arena expected him to claw this game back and take the victory. Surely Zverev would collapse under such pressure? But it would be the in-form Djokovic who lost his cool, opening a huge opportunity for Zverev, which he took. The 21-year old won the second set 6-3, to take another enormous victory in his career.
It was his fourth tournament win of the year, on top of the Bavarian Championships in April, the Madrid Open in May and the Washington Open in June. Although currently ranked number four, his win yesterday could potentially move him up even higher come mid-winter. Zverev is the first German to win the ATP Finals since Boris Becker did some 23 years ago. Many have tipped him to be a future dominant force in tennis in years to come, so we could well be seeing more of Becker’s records dismantled. At a monstrous 6’6, he appears an intimidating figure, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. With the impressive addition of Ivan Lendl into ‘team Zverev,’ all eyes will be on the young German next season, as he looks to take his game to an even better level.