Alexander Zverev, the 21-year-old German Tennis player, showed at the end of 2018 that the New Year could signal the arrival of his era. After beating Roger Federer in a contentious semi-final encounter, Zverev showed his class by beating World No.1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets to win the year-ending ATP Finals for the first time. Zverev outclassed Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 to win the tournament in just his second appearance. The German, coached by Ivan Lendl, faltered just once when Djokovic broke him early in the second set but that was the only blemish on an extraordinary performance of power and skill.
Zverev had won the match against Federer 7-5,7-6 (5) but the match was marred by an incident which took place involving a ball-boy that changed the course of the game and resulted in the crowd booing Zverev after the conclusion. In this match, Zverev showed no nerves as he set about to dismantle Djokovic.
Roared on by the crowd, Zverev hit three aces on his way to sealing the first set 6-4. Still on a high, the third seed broke an out-of-sorts Djokovic immediately at the start of the second set to leave the top seed with a mountain to climb. Showing nerves for the first time, he double-faulted twice in his next service game as Djokovic got back on level terms but the German broke again to lead 2-1 as the Serb's error count mounted. Zverev broke Djokovic for the third time in the second set in the ninth game, producing a stunning backhand down the line at full stretch to win the championship.
Describing the win, Zverev said, “It is the biggest title I have ever won. Firstly, I want to congratulate Novak and we may never have seen the tennis he has played in the last few months before. He barely lost a match but thankfully he did to me.”
Fantastic 2018 for Djokovic
However, the loss will not dampen Djokovic’s magnificent 2018 in which he turned his entire career around. After injuries and a loss in confidence in 2017 and 2018 saw him slip to 22nd in the world, his career bounced back with victories in the Wimbledon and US Open. His tally of Grand Slam titles now stands at 14, level with Pete Sampras but three behind Rafael Nadal and six behind Federer.
After the loss, Djokovic said he wants to win the Australian Open for the seventh time and reflected upon a magnificent 2018. “Having a Grand Slam so early in the season makes us train probably very hard and be kind of aware that we have to be at our best in the first week of the year. The first Slam is there in January. I've had most success in my life, in my career, in Australia out of all four Slams. When you get out of this feeling of a little bit disappointment that you lost, I mean, all the positive things that I have to reflect on and also take from this season, especially the last six months,” Djokovic said.
He was full of praise for Zverev and wished him success for the future. “He definitely played much better than he did in the group stage. He deserved to win. He's still quite young but he's had an amazing career so far and I wish him all the best for his future. Speaking of being young, hopefully I'll play many more years and I'll see you guys here in years to come,” Djokovic signed off.