Alexander Zverev is hoping a happy approach to tennis’s biggest events will lead to improved results where it counts most.
The German in 2018 finished a second straight season at world No.4, capping the year with victory at the ATP Finals in London.
He beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back-to-back to scoop the biggest title of his career, six months after claiming a third ATP Masters title in Madrid.
Yet he continued to underwhelm at the Grand Slam events, falling before the fourth round at all but one. His lone trip beyond that point was at Roland Garros, where he reached the quarterfinals – his best ever result at a major tournament.
“I want to enjoy tennis as much as I can. I want to enjoy tennis as much as I can at the Grand Slams as well. We’ll see how the year starts,” said Zverev, who is set to play for Germany at the Hopman Cup with countrywoman Angelique Kerber.
“I just hope to get going well here in Perth.
Zverev looks right at home at the @RACArena.
— Hopman Cup (@hopmancup) December 26, 2018
“Every year in the off season I’ve improved, I feel like I start to get better. I’m still quite young, I still have a lot to improve and it makes me happy that I still have a lot to improve because I’m No.4 in the world and I still feel like I have potential.
“That’s great news for me.”
Zverev’s trip to the final eight in Paris did demonstrate a hardened ability to last physically in the five-set format of Grand Slam tennis.
In three straight matches, Zverev recovered from two-sets-to-one down to outlast opponents over five sets before finally running out of gas against Dominic Thiem.
But it was an encouraging sign for the wiry 21-year-old, who used that result as a springboard to more impressive results in the second half of 2018.
These included the defence of his 500-level title in Washington DC and back-to-back semifinals in Shanghai and Basel shortly before his season-ending triumph in London.
He played (77) and won (58) more matches than any other player on tour this year.
“I took two weeks off (after the ATP Finals) but still the season is very long for us, it’s 11 months long, so we need to take our time and get some quality rest,” he said in Perth.
“I went on holidays like we all do and then went home and started preparing myself. It’s not about getting my fitness back, it’s more about improving.
“I’ve improved in every aspect of my physical part, whether it’s running or whether it’s lifting weights, I’ve improved a lot. This is kind of the stage of the year when you can build for the whole year.”
Although he has set himself up for the long haul in 2019, an early test of his physical and mental strength will come as early as the Australian Open, which kicks off on 14 January.
The fourth-ranked Zverev will be hoping to better his previous results at Melbourne Park; in three main-draw appearances he is yet to clear the third round.
“That’s why we’re all here. The Australian Open is a Grand Slam, it’s a massive Grand Slam,” he said.
“Obviously we all want to do well there.”
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