PRESS CONFERENCE: Alexander Zverev after his win at the ATP Finals
With one last down-the-line backhand, Alexander “Sascha” Zverev completed a stunning upset of the No. 1-ranked player in the world, Novak Djokovic, and clinched the ATP Finals title.
It was a milestone day for the 21-year-old German for a number of reasons.
First of all, it was the biggest title of Zverev’s career. The ATP Finals is the biggest tournament on the tour calendar outside the Grand Slams, and Zverev’s biggest titles before this conquest all came just one level below it—three Masters 1000 titles, at Rome and Canada in 2017, and Madrid earlier this year.
He also scored the biggest paycheck ($2,509,000) and biggest points haul (1,300) of his career.
“It feels amazing. Obviously this is a very special trophy for all of us players,” Zverev said. “I’m so happy to have been able to play my best tennis today and win the biggest title of my career so far.”
Secondly, beating Djokovic was the biggest win of Zverev’s career, in terms of ranking. Zverev’s 6-4, 6-3 victory on Sunday gave him his first career win over a reigning world No. 1. Before this, his best win came in the final of last year's Rome Masters, where he beat a No. 2-ranked Djokovic.
Coupled with his 7-5, 7-6 (5) win over No. 3-ranked Roger Federer in the semifinals on Saturday, this is the first time Zverev has beaten two players ranked inside the Top 5 at the same tournament.
“Obviously it’s quite astonishing, winning this title, beating two such players back to back, Roger and Novak,” he said. “It means so much. I’m incredibly happy and incredibly proud of this moment.”
Zverev was also the only player to break Djokovic all week, and he did it four times. Djokovic went into the final having held all 36 of his service games in his first four matches, but there was some foreshadowing as to what would happen on Sunday—the Serb only faced two break points in those first four matches of the week, and they both came against Zverev in their round-robin match.
The milestones don’t end there. Zverev is the first German to win the ATP Finals since Boris Becker achieved the feat 23 years ago in 1995 (Zverev wasn’t even born yet). He’s also the youngest player to win the ATP Finals since Djokovic in 2008 (Djokovic was a younger 21).
Zverev’s win over Djokovic was also his tour-leading 58th win of the year (Dominic Thiem is next with 54) and he’s now one of only four players to capture four or more ATP World Tour titles in 2018 (Rafael Nadal won five titles this year and Djokovic, Federer and Zverev all finished with four).
Last but not least, Zverev’s win pushed him from No. 5 to No. 4 just in time for the year-end rankings, and he’ll be within striking distance of No. 3, and maybe even No. 2, in Australia. He now has 6,385 ranking points, just 35 points behind No. 3 Federer and 1,095 behind No. 2 Nadal.
For now, though, the world No. 4 is only thinking about one thing.
“I don’t really want to be thinking about next year too much now,” Zverev said after the final. “I’m going to go on holidays and enjoy my time there, and then afterwards I’m going to do everything I can to prepare myself. I’m going to work really hard. And then we’ll see what the 2019 season brings.”