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Zverev’s London victory heralds new era in tennis


Germany’s Alexander Zverev (L) chats to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic as they pose with their trophies after the men’s singles final match on day eight of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on November 18, 2018. Alexander Zverev shocked Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 to win the ATP Finals on Sunday, denying the Serbian world number one a record-equalling sixth title in London. Glyn KIRK / AFP

Alexander Zverev’s victory over Novak Djokovic in the ATP Tour Finals heralded the advent of a new generation. At match point in the second set, Djokovic hit an approach shot that pushed Zverev to the left and the youngster scooped a floating return that sailed between the singles line and the net-post. Djokovic let the ball pass but it landed in.

It was the match point that would be replayed for years, just as Federer’s forehand down the line ended Pete Sampras’ reign at Wimbledon and heralded a new era. “Sascha” did it at last.

The new champion skipped the Next Gen tournament of the preceding week, to preserve his energy for the Grand Finale that included the Annual Awards Ceremony sponsored by Moet and Chandon.

The players voted Novak Djokovic as the Come-back player of the year. He was the first ever player to start a year outside the top 20 and rise to number one in the same season.

He had an elbow surgery in January and dropped to 22 in rankings. When at the French Open he was beaten by Marcos Cecchinatto of Italy, the Serbian superstar wailed: “I don’t know where to go next.”

However, he reached the finals in Queens grass courts but lost to Marin Cilic. Thereafter, he proceeded to win the Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles, as well as the Masters in Cincinnati and Shanghai. It was a double for Novak’s team as his coach, Marian Vajda was voted Coach of the year.

Alex de Minaur of Australia started the year outside the 200 but rose to 31. In 2017, Minaur had won only two matches at the Tour level but raised this to 24 in 2018. He was a semifinalist in Brisbane and a finalist in Sydney.

In June, he won his first career title at the ATP Challenger event in Nottingham and was a finalist at the Citi Open in Washington DC and reached the third round of Wimbledon and the US Open. He won the next Gen title in Milano Italy. His citation stated, “the Next Gen ATP star who entered the top 100 for the first time in the year and made the biggest impact on the tour this season.”

Rafael Nadal received the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship of the Year Award, for the second consecutive year, while his pal, Roger Federer was voted by fans as the Favourite Player of the Year.

Stefanos Tsitsipas was voted the Most Improved Player of the Year. The lanky player from Greece defeated Djokovic to win the Paris Masters.

Austria’s Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic of Croatia were voted the best Doubles pair of the year; both for the first time from their respective countries.

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