Comment & Analysis @RazMirza
Can Alexander Zverev turn ATP Tour titles in Grand Slams this year?
Zverev, Karen Khachanov, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev are all players to watch in the new season
Last Updated: 09/01/19 8:20am
Alexander Zverev underlined his burgeoning potential by clinching the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals - but can he turn Tour title wins into Grand Slams in 2019?
Zverev is facing a race against time in order to be fit for the Australian Open after suffering a hamstring injury.
An injured Zverev would be a huge blow to the opening Grand Slam tournament only two months after he shocked world No 1 Novak Djokovic to lift the ATP Finals title at London's O2 Arena in November.
The 21-year-old German has time on his side, although he has long been touted as the leader of the next generation aiming to unseat the multiple Grand Slam winners who have dominated the sport for well over a decade.
So far, Zverev has flattered to deceive at the majors with a run to the quarter-finals at last year's French Open the only time he made it past the fourth round of any of the four Slams.
View this post on Instagram
What a fantastic way to finish an incredible year!!!🏆 Many thanks to my family, fans, team and sponsors! And now time for holidays...🏖 @adidastennis @headtennis_official @drivetotennis @richardmilleofficial @accorhotels @zegnaoffical Photo credit to @clivebrunskill #nittoatpfinals
It is easy to underplay his success because he already has 10 titles under his belt, including the ATP Finals and three Masters 1000 crowns.
Only four players have beaten Djokovic since Wimbledon with three of them - including Zverev - part of the new generation.
Keeping it in the family
Born in Hamburg in April 1997 to Russian parents, Zverev is often referred to as Sascha - a common nickname for Alexander in Russia. Both of his parents are former tennis players with Alexander Sr qualifying for the first round of the 1985 Australian Open and Wimbledon the following year, losing on both occasions. Alexander Sr trains both of his sons, with Mischa also in the top-100 of the ATP rankings. Mischa, almost 10 years older than his brother, reached the quarter-finals of the 2017 Australian Open, defeating then world No 1 Andy Murray along the way.
Zverev has already sent out a warning to the ageing generation that the youngsters are already making a breakthrough in the big time.
"Us young guys, we're coming through," the German said. "(Karen) Khachanov winning the Masters in Paris was a big thing. I was very happy for him, as well.
"I wasn't happy that he beat me, but I was happy for the victory that he had because I'm quite good friends with him. The victory for (Stefanos) Tsitsipas in Toronto, I felt like Novak wasn't playing his best there, but obviously all the credit to Tsitsipas.
"You have to beat someone like Novak because he's not going to give you the match."
Djokovic himself said Zverev's sensational victory at the ATP Finals could have deeper significance for the men's game.
"There's a lot of similarities in terms of trajectory of professional tennis, in our careers," the world No 1 said. "Hopefully he can surpass me. I mean, I sincerely wish him that.
"He deserves everything he gets so far. There's a lot of time ahead of him. I wish him to stay healthy and obviously win a lot of titles."
Zverev's dog Lovik has featured on his Instagram page on several occasions and has been known to travel to events with the tall right-hander - the pet was even granted an accreditation pass to the 2015 US Open as the player's 'guest'. Zverev's affinity for other dogs has been shown on his social channels, referring to one at the Boodles event in June as "my new second best friend".
The 6ft 6in Zverev, coached by Ivan Lendl, may be viewed by many as the leader of the future of tennis, but Zverev insists the likes of Djokovic and Roger Federer remain the standard-bearers.
"They're still going to be the guys to beat at the big tournaments," he 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. Hopefully next year I'll be able to play better tennis than I did this year, even though it's been a good year."
Arguably the biggest turning point in Zverev's career to date has been adding Lendl to his coaching team.
Lendl, a former world No 1 and eight-time major champion, proved an astute coach to Andy Murray. The Scot was finally able to realise his Grand Slam dream under the Czech and it is clearly hoped he will have the same effect on Zverev's career.
Zverev has yet to make much of an impact in the four majors, but former British No 1 Greg Rusedski believes will be a Grand Slam title contender under Lendl's guidance.
"The most important thing was hiring Ivan Lendl just before the start of the US Open," Rusedski said. "Ivan can't create miracles but we have seen a lot of improvements in his game. His willingness to transition forward and the forehand has had some improvements, but the off-season will actually help him to be a better player.
"Once Lendl has three to six months with him whereby he can put in a lot of work with him he's going to be a contender for all titles, not just the Masters series but also the Slams as well."
The Australian Open may come too soon for the world No 4, dependant on his recovery from his injury, but winning either the French Open, Wimbledon or US Open are well within Zverev's capabilities this year.
We have every major tennis event covered from all angles via our website skysports.com/tennis. On the move? Head to our app for mobile devices and iPad, or follow our Twitter account @SkySportsTennis to join in the conversation.