Two German brothers are taking on the kings of tennis, something not previously seen at a Grand Slam tournament. The story of the brothers Alexander and Mischa Zverev was already a very special one to begin with.
The first to come to mind are the Bryan Brothers - Bob and Mike, then there are Andy and Jamie Murray. Who else? John and Patrick McEnroe and of course the Williams sisters: Serena and Venus. It's not that out of the ordinary for siblings to make it to the top in professional tennis. But, nobody at the German tennis association (DTB) could have ever predicted that a pair of German brothers would do so well.
It comes as no surprise that Alexander "Sascha" Zverev (pictured above, right) has done so well in Melbourne. The 1.98-meter (6 foot 6 inches) 19-year-old with long blonde hair has climbed all the way to No. 24 in the world. The former top youth player wouldn't look out of place in a talent show like "American Idol."
At the start of this year, when he competed in the not-so-serious Hopman Cup, a mixed doubles tournament in Australia, his doubles partner Andrea Petkovic wrote on Instagram that he was also suited to work as a model for "Abercrombie and Fitch." Petkovic quickly apologized to Zverev for the comment - just in case.
However, nobody expected much from Mischa Zverev (above, left). After a series of recurring injuries, the 29-year-old, who is more physically and mentally mature than his brother, was no longer seen as having the potential to do big things. But Mischa beat World No. 1 Andy Murrayin the round of 16, while Alexander lost to the ninth-ranked Rafael Nadal.
"He has a big chance to become the future world No. 1 if he's able to keep improving the way that he's doing," Nadal said of the younger Zverev.
The man from Mallorca is not alone in his praise. A certain Roger Federer has described the Hamburg native as a "super-talent" And the otherwise taciturn tennis guru Ivan Lendl has also described the younger Zverev as "a future No. 1."
"Mom was smiling the whole time"
And Mischa? He's in the shadow of his younger brother. Still, with members of his family looking on, he managed to defeat the favored John Isner earlier this week.
"I looked towards my box and everyone was very nervous, but my mom was smiling the whole time and that helped me."
This is another part of the Zverev story. There are some crazy families on the tennis circuit, but the Zverevs are not one of them. The parents, Irena and Alexander Zverev Sr., emigrated from Russia to Hamburg and are much more than enthusiastic supporters and sponsors of their sons. Alexander Sr. once played for the Soviet Davis Cup team and is now Alexander's coach. The Zverevs' mother and grandmother were also tennis players.
The Zverevs leave nothing to chance in their quest for success. Alexander has long had Chilean Patricio Apey to manage his affairs, and former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich, another Hamburg native, is another supporter. The DTB has been paying the costs of Alexander's own physiotherapist for some time.
Last year Alex Zverev changed his clothing sponsor to Adidas, which also kits out Angelique Kerber. Brother Mischa also wears Adidas gear. And they are now both doing their conditioning training with a man named Jez Green, who trained Andy Murray in the past before going their separate ways in 2014.
"Today is the best time for us," the older Zverev told the daily paper "Süddeutsche Zeitung" when asked about his younger brother. And so they are shaking things up a bit with the rest of the world at the first Grand Slam of the year. Mischa - currently No. 50 in the men's rankings - knows that the future belongs to Alexander. If Alexander Zverev really does become one of the best in the world, nobody will be happier for him than his big brother.