Alexander Zverev takes on Marin Cilic in his opening match at the end-of-season tournament on Monday. The German sees the London showpiece as equivalent to a grand slam as he prepares to make a real breakthrough.
German tennis hope Alexander Zverev is looking to end the season on a high when he makes his second appearance at the ATP Finals this week
The 21-year-old plays his first round-robin match against Croatia's Marin Cilic on Monday and hopes to do better than last year when he went out in the group phase. A good showing in London could position him for a tilt at maiden grand slam title in 2019, given Roger Federer will be another year older and injuries continue to dog Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray.
A shoulder niggle has also troubled Zverev of late but he is fit for action in the "Guga Kuerten" group, which also includes new world number one Novak Djokovic and big-serving American John Isner.
"I took a few days off and it's settling now. I'm ready to go again now," the world number five told reporters ahead of the tournament involving the eight best male players of the year - minus the injured Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro.
"I'm looking forward to the tournament. I put it close to equal to a grand slam, actually. It's probably one of the most prestigious events that we have, and just playing there is already an honour itself."
Zverev, who won three titles this year in Washington, Madrid and Munich, is very much seen among the next generation of tennis stars in the men's game but it is not just a changing of the guard he wants to see. Zverev is keen to speed up play and is fed up with opponents who take ages wiping themselves with a towel.
Tennis has been marred by players haranguing ball boys and girls for towels in recent years and a trial at the Next Gen Finals in Milan last week saw players having to retrieve a towel from a rack in the corner of the court in a bid to limit its use.
"I think you should also prevent players from taking the towel after every single serve and every mishit return, sometimes it does get a little bit ridiculous in my eyes," Zverev said.
In the ATP Finals opener on Sunday, South African Kevin Anderson beat Austria's Dominic Thiem 6-3 7-6 (12-10) in the "Lleyton Hewitt" group, which also boasts Federer and Kei Nishikori.
In women's tennis, the Czech Republic defeated defending champions the United States to lift the Fed Cup for the 11th time. Both sides were hit by high-profile absences but world number 31 Katerina Siniakova beat Sofia Kenin in a marathon three-set battle to clinch victory.
mm/mp (Reuters, DPA, AFP)