SHENZHEN, CHINA – Citing fatigue, Alexander Zverev withdrew from the Shenzhen Open before his first match, but not before contributor James Pham was able to catch up to one of the ATP’s newest titlists for a 10-question interview.
James Pham: From 1 to 10, how good does it feel to be Alexander Zverev right now?
Alexander Zverev: [Laughs] I don’t know. It’s good. I just won my first title. You don’t expect to beat the reigning U.S. Open champion in the final of an ATP event, especially when it’s your first title, so it was quite a surprise for me, but also a lot of joy in that. Beating Tomas [Berdych] and Stan [Wawrinka] back-to-back was also another achievement for me.
JP: What was the first thing you did when you got some alone time?
AZ: I checked my text messages. Mischa sent me a lot of texts so I responded to him.
JP: Speaking of Mischa, do you feel badly that most people just want to ask him about you?
AZ: Yeah, a little bit. But I think he quite enjoys it. He’s someone who doesn’t like to take attention to himself as much so he likes to be a little bit on the side, which I don’t think is very fair. He’s a great tennis player himself. He’ll be back into the Top 100 as well.
JP: Mischa has obviously given you a lot of advice about negotiating life on tour. Now that you’re the higher ranked player, do you give him any advice?
AZ: I try to, but he’s the older brother so he won’t listen to me anyway [laughs].
JP: You’re 6’6” now. Still growing?
JP: Overall, exceptional movement trumps power at the top of the game. Is there any type of “tall player training” that you do?
AZ: There’s no big secret to training. But different body, different training. With me, you have to build muscles but also stay flexible and stay kind of soft which I am naturally. All my big swings, you can’t really tighten that up as much. Physically the top players are on a different level to other players and that’s why they’re on the top. That’s what I’m working on and what I will work on in the off-season.
JP: What about the emotional part of your game?
AZ: I’m not going to change and get the emotions out of my game. It’s important to have emotions in sport. If you don’t have emotions, it’s like you don’t really care. Because if you care about something, you’re always going to be emotional. Doesn’t matter if it’s sports or personal life.
JP: You’ve been called the "possible future No. 1" by a growing number of people, including Rafael Nadal. Do you feel pressure?
AZ: It’s nice to hear from people like them, something like that. Because they know what it takes to get there. And if they see the potential in me, that’s great, but I know that I’m a long way away from that. And there are a lot of young guys who are playing very good tennis at the moment.
JP: What about expectations from the tennis media?
AZ: I mean, they try to put pressure on you. But you have to somehow not really care about it. The best way is not to read as much from the media and what they write… even though you guys probably do a great job [laughs]…
JP: I notice you’re wearing a London t-shirt. Are the ATP Finals [in London] on your mind for next year?
AZ: Oh, next year? I thought you were going to say this year! [laughs] I have to play very, very well. Only eight players get there, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself.