09:59 PM GMT November 18, 2018
Alexander Zverev’s holiday in the Maldives will be that much more enjoyable next week after the 21-year-old followed in the footsteps of fellow German Boris Becker, who won the last of his three season finale titles in 1995, with victory over Novak Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday. Zverev has also finished the year among the Top 4 in the ATP Rankings for a second straight season.
Zverev, who was emotional and admitted to being dazzled by the silver trophy in his post-final press conference, admitted, “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.”
As the youngest singles champion at the season finale since Djokovic clinched the crown in 2008, aged 21, when the event was played in Shanghai, Zverev fell to his knees in celebration on court after beating World No. 1 and five-time former titlist Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 at The O2 in London.
“I fell to my knees, so my knees kind of hurt,” said Zverev. “Apart from that, I was very happy. Obviously, it's quite astonishing, winning this title, beating two such players back-to-back, Roger [Federer] and Novak, in semi-finals and final. It means so much. I'm incredibly happy and incredibly proud of this moment right now.”
Zverev recovered from a 6-4, 6-1 round-robin loss to Djokovic on Wednesday to become the first player to beat Roger Federer (in Saturday’s semi-finals) and Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals. He is the first player since 1990 to beat the top two seeds, replicating the feat of Andre Agassi who knocked out Becker in the semi-finals and Stefan Edberg in the final.
In his eighth tournament since teaming up with Ivan Lendl, Zverev reflected on the influence of the former World No. 1. “He obviously analysed the match that I played with him a few days ago [and] told me a few things I had to do different,” said Zverev. “I was more aggressive today. I tried to take the ball earlier… But my Dad is the one that gave me the base. My Dad is the one that taught me the game of tennis. My dad deserves the most credit out of everyone… I'm very thankful to him for that. Obviously [with] Ivan, 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.”
Zverev completed the season with an ATP World Tour-best 58 match wins on the season (58-19 overall), which includes three other trophies at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Thiem), the BMW Open by FWU (d. Kohlschreiber) and the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (d. De Minaur).
“[Djokovic and Federer] are still going to be the guys to beat at the big tournaments,” said Zverev. “[But] I will do everything I can to get better, to compete with them always. I feel like I'm doing that. But I still have a lot of things to improve. I'm still very young. Hopefully, next year, I'll be able to play better tennis than I did this year, even though it's been a good year.”