New York - Rising star Alexander Zverev is relishing the
challenge of taking on established greats Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak
Djokovic in pursuit of his first Grand Slam title.
The 21-year-old German, ranked fourth in the world, is part
of the highly-touted "NextGen" crop of 20-somethings who are making
an impact on the ATP Tour.
Yet to break through at a Grand Slam, Zverev says he's eager
to prove himself on the game's biggest stages against its biggest stars.
"You want to win a Grand slam in the tough way,"
he said as he prepared for the start of the US Open on Monday. "You want
to play and compete with the best players in the world."
Zverev is therefore delighted to see top-ranked defending
champion Nadal, five-time champion and world number two Federer, 13-time Grand
Slam winner Djokovic and three-time Slam winner Andy Murray all in the field -
a first since Wimbledon of last year.
Scotland's Murray isn't expecting much as he returns from
hip surgery in his first Grand slam since then.
But Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have shared the major spoils
so far this year, a feat Zverev calls "amazing".
"They all won a Slam. They all won Masters Series. It's
great to see them play at the level they are. Tennis is waiting for this for a
"Having them back, having them all playing the best
tennis again is what makes it special for all the ones that haven't won it
In his bid to upset the established order, Zverev has added
former Grand Slam winner Ivan Lendl to his team.
Zverev, who has made it to just one Grand Slam quarter-final
and never made it past the second round at the US Open in two prior
appearances, said Lendl has offered invaluable advice on how to tackle the top
"There's a lot of tactical work, a lot of tactical
talk," he said. "Against all sorts of players, not only the big four.
He's a smart man, a great guy. Done it as a player, done it as a coach so he
knows what it takes.
"He knows how to make the best players even better.
This is why I took him," added Zverev, who said he also considered hiring
German great Boris Becker.
Zverev is also refining his approach to the frenetic
atmosphere of the US Open, saying he is spending his time with a few friends
and members of his team, focusing on tennis and not getting caught up in the
New York "vibe".
"I've never really played my best tennis here," he
said. I'm trying to change that. Last year I was a little burned out.
"Last year I played a lot, I won a lot. Mentally it was
tough for me because everybody saw me for the first time as a favourite. That
was new for me. Expectations got ahead of me a little bit."