At a time of year when traditions are brought into a focus, Alexander “Sascha” Zverev has established a cherished routine: building the foundations for a career-best season at Mastercard Hopman Cup.
“I love it here, that’s why I always decide to start my season off here,” says Zverev, the first member of the star-studded field to arrive in Perth for the 2018 event.
“Each year that I started my season here has been a very good season, so hopefully that continues to be so and hopefully it will be even better than last year.”
A “good season” is something of an understatement for the popular German, who rose to a career-high world No.3 in a season that included two Masters trophies among five pro titles, those sparkling prizes secured with finals wins over Novak Djokovic (in Rome) and Roger Federer (in Toronto).
At age 20, progress came with a string of impressive ‘youngest-ever’ asterisks for Zverev – the youngest top three player and Masters winner since Djokovic a decade ago.
Not that anybody who’s seen Sascha compete for his nation in Perth would be surprised by such rapid progress.
Partnering Sabine Lisicki in 2016, the then 18-year-old showed glimpses of the breakthroughs to come as he pushed Nick Kyrgios to three sets in his opening singles rubber and defeated experienced Frenchman Kenny De Schepper in another.
It was in 2017, though, that Zverev’s star power came most to the fore. With Andrea Petkovic his Team Germany partner, he won two of three singles rubbers – most notably against Federer in a men’s singles classic that extended to three tiebreak sets.
Watched by 13,851 fans, the superb-quality encounter thrilled the largest-ever crowd at a Perth tennis event.
It’s unsurprising that Mastercard Hopman Cup has become such a happy tradition for the fast-rising star.
“It’s the perfect preparation to start my year ahead of the Australian Open,” says Zverev. “My match with Roger in January was an amazing experience with wonderful crowds who really love their tennis.”
Partnered by former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, Zverev will no doubt be eyeing the opportunity for an even more special experience in 2018.
Germany is two-time winners of the unique world team event but haven’t triumphed since 1995, when former No.1 Boris Becker partnered Anke Huber in a final win over Andrei Medvedev and Natalia Medvedeva of Ukraine.
Zverev has come to be mentioned often alongside Becker, having matched the German great as the first from his nation to win so many titles in a year.
It’s a sign of Sascha’s serious Hopman Cup intentions that just hours after his arrival, he’d already hit the practice courts at Perth Arena.
If laying the foundations for a stunning season in Perth is already a happy tradition, helping his nation achieve victory is one that the focused German would dearly love to add next.