Roger Federer was suitably impressed by Alexander Zverev and named him as part of a trio of young ATP starlets who are already following in the footsteps of ‘Big Four’ rivals Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
The Swiss was locked in a real battle with the 20-year-old German as he booked his spot in the semi-finals at the season-ending ATP Finals, eventually winning 7-6 (8-6) 5-7 6-1.
Zverev has enjoyed good results against the world No. 2 in the past, and Federer was quick to praise him on court immediately after the clash.
But in his post-match press conference, the 19-time Grand Slam champion cast his thoughts on where he saw Zverev fitting in among the exciting new generation of talent, and placed him a group along with Nick Kyrgios and Denis Shapovalov who are already making their impact felt on the tour, despite their relative lack of years at the very top level.
‘I like what I’m seeing with Sascha,’ he said after the match. ‘I see somebody who is working towards the future.
‘I think, yes, of course it’s really important right now to have success. He had that with two massive wins in Rome and Montreal. I mean, that’s going to protect his season anyways. The rest sort of is all a bonus.
‘What I like to see is I feel like they’re working towards how he could be playing when he’s 23, 24 years old in terms of fitness, planning, organisation, all these things. I think that’s nice to see.
‘Now, the future? The thing is it seems like they need a bit more time, the young guys in general, to break through these days. Even though I’m really happy to see that there is the likes of Shapovalov or Nick, now also Zverev, making the move early, like what Rafa and Andy did, Novak, Lleyton, all these guys. They were such great teenagers.
‘I do see a great upside from all these three guys.’
Shapovalov, 18, cracked the top-50 this season, while Kyrgios has reached the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open in the past, but Zverev has reached world No. 3 after a rapid rise up the rankings.
And Federer warned the rest of the players on the tour, that the German is only going to go from strength-to-strength.
‘What I like about Zverev is he’s got the full package,’ he added. ‘He’s already 3 in the world.
‘I think he’s going to leave the World Tour Finals, regardless if he qualifies for the semis or not, with a lot of information.
‘I think the last six months of the season gave him everything he needs to work forward to.
‘Then, of course, he’s only going to get stronger from here. That should be very encouraging for him and his team.’