Melbourne - Alexander Zverev is looking for a maiden Grand
Slam title in 2019 to cement his place as leader of a pack of hungry young
players ready to end the old guard's monopoly in majors.
Zverev won the biggest crown of his career when he
overpowered Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals last year, but questions remain
over whether this new kid on the block can dismantle the dominance of the big
four - Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
To do that he must end his abject record in Grand Slams,
with the first chance for the 21-year-old world number four coming when the
Australian Open begins in Melbourne on Monday.
For a player who has never been ranked outside the world's
top five since breaking into that elite company in September 2017, Zverev's
Grand Slam record makes painful reading.
A lone quarter-final, losing to Dominic Thiem at the 2018
French Open, is all he has to show from his 14 major appearances, despite
having won three Masters titles among his 10 ATP titles.
He has never got beyond the third round in Melbourne. Last
year, seeded four, he continued his sorry Slam run, crashing out in the last 32
to South Korea's Chung Hyeon.
But it was the manner of his win in London two months ago -
dismissing Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 a day after a 7-5, 7-6 triumph over Federer - that
had people believing the German had turned the corner and would be a major
force in 2019.
"Us young guys, we're coming," warned Zverev after
beating Djokovic. "You have to beat someone like Novak because he's not
going to give you the match."
Djokovic noted that Zverev's win could have deeper
"There's a lot of similarities in terms of trajectory
of professional tennis, in our careers," said the world number one.
"Hopefully he can surpass me. I mean, I sincerely wish him that."
Zverev is coached by the eight-time Grand Slam winning great
He says he is still learning from standard bearers such as
Federer, who will be gunning for a third-consecutive Melbourne crown at the age
of 37, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray, who is on the comeback trail after hip
surgery a year ago.
"They're still going to be the guys to beat at the big
tournaments," Zverev said.
"I will do everything I can to get better, to compete
with them always. I feel like I'm doing that. But still I have a lot of things
to improve. I'm still very young."
Zverev began his year where he left off in London by showing
good form at the Hopman Cup in Perth, including a battling victory against
gritty veteran Spaniard David Ferrer, suggesting the young pretender may have
what it takes to mature into a major force in 2019.