News & Media

Young and fearless

5 January 2017, by Hopman Cup

Andrea Petkovic is a decade older than Alexander Zverev, but as she contested her first matches at Mastercard Hopman Cup the 29-year-old insisted she can “learn a lot” from her teenage compatriot.

“Sascha is an amazing player and he’s still so young and so fearless. It’s something I really admire about him,” said Petkovic, pointing to the bold approach of the game’s next generation.

“I think especially us girls we can learn a lot from these young boys like Nick Kyrgios and Sascha Zverev. They are so fearless.

“They just don’t think about any consequences, they just go for their shots and just go for what they want to go for and that’s very admirable.”

It was a typically astute observation from Petkovic – days later, Zverev couldn’t have been more fearless as he stunned Roger Federer 7-6(1) 6-7(4) 7-6(4) in their men’s singles encounter.

It was Zverev’s second consecutive win over the 17-time Grand Slam champion, following another upset of Federer in the Halle semifinals last June.

While Federer has spent most of the months since that encounter recovering from a knee injury, the German has been steadily building on the fitness, form and mindset that enables him to challenge such superstar champions

“I feel like I can play really good tennis right now because I got stronger, because I got physically better,” said Zverev.

“Obviously against Roger you know you have to play every single point, otherwise you have no chance and you have to play at a very high level, otherwise he will beat you quite easily.

“It’s always been like that and always will be until he stops playing.”

In a match spanning two-and-a-half hours, Zverev recovered from a 2-5 first-set deficit, underlining Petkovic’s assessment that he can dauntlessly tackle the biggest occasion.

It’s a quality that’s backed by the German’s ability to learn from every opportunity.

Also defeating Federer in a practice match this week, Zverev has noted many key qualities in his time with the superstar.

“Every point he tries to focus and tries to play the best game he can and that’s what he does in matches,” said Zverev.

“So practice is actually quite similar – if you don’t play your best tennis, every single point you’ve got no chance.”

“And he plays so quick. I think he has the quickest second shot after the serve and it’s just unbelievable the way he gets after the ball.

“His movement, his footwork and also his wrist action is probably one of the best that tennis has every seen.”

Federer, too, has had ample opportunity to learn the depth of Zverev’s potential.

“He’s very good,” said the Swiss, noting improvements the German has made since their previous two matches in 2016.

“It’s nice to see him every month that goes by you see that he’s added something more to the game and he’s getting more and more consistent.

“I think he’s going to have a really wonderful future if he keeps working hard and he stays injury free, which I believe he will be. He’s definitely going to be one to watch.”

So too is Belinda Bencic, also 19, who saved the tie for Switzerland with her 6-3 6-4 win over Andrea Petkovic and featured strongly in the mixed doubles tie that secured the team’s victory.

Like Petkovic, Federer gains refreshing perspective in watching his younger team-mate’s development – and his endorsement couldn’t be stronger.

“Speaking to Belinda makes me remind myself of where I was 15 years ago,” said the Swiss.

“I’m just very excited for her because I think she’s going to have such an amazing career ahead of her.”