The Rise of Alexander Zverev


Zverev acknowledged that it could be grating to always be told he was developing. “But I’m No. 6 and still growing, so I guess it’s fine,” he said. “I can get impatient, but at the same time I know I want to put myself in the best position to win big tournaments.”

At Zverev’s side for tournaments are his parents, Irina and Alexander Sr., who both serve as coaches; Green; Hugo Gravil, his physiotherapist; and Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former world No. 1, who came on board at the Citi Open.

The decision to reach out to hire Ferrero was solely Zverev’s. It came as a surprise to Apey and Zverev’s father, but it proved to be a wise choice and showed that after spending most of his life on the tennis tour, Zverev has good instincts.

His parents played professionally in the Soviet Union. Irina was once ranked fourth in the country, and Alexander Sr. was in the top 200 in the world. They immigrated with Zverev’s brother, Mischa, to Hamburg, Germany, in 1991 and taught tennis at the club UHC Tennis Hamburg.

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Zverev, left, after his victory over Roger Federer at the Rogers Cup this month.

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Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Sascha was born in 1997.

“I was playing on court with Mischa up until Saturday, and Sascha was born Sunday,” Irina said.

Four days later, the family took baby Sascha to the courts.

Sascha grew up watching Mischa, now 30 and ranked 27th, play as a junior and a pro. Alexander Sr., whom everyone on the team and in the players’ lounge affectionately calls Papa, recalled that every time he and Mischa traveled for tournaments, Sascha would cry and beg to come along. But while Mischa and Alexander Sr. were away, Irina taught Sascha his technique and built the foundation for his game.

Every member of the team mentions at every opportunity how Irina is the rock, engine and heart of the whole Zverev enterprise. From her, they say, comes Sascha’s teeth-clenching grit, fighting to the very last point, as when he saved a match point against Richard Gasquet with a 49-shot rally, going on to win the match and the tournament in Montreal. “That’s all my wife,” Alexander Sr. said. “The fight is from her.”

When Sascha was old enough, his parents spent equal time coaching the boys, and the family began traveling on tour together. Sascha joined Mischa on every tour stop, always asking if he could hit on the stadium court.

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In May, Zverev became the first 20-year-old to win the Italian Open in a decade when he beat Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

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Michael Steele/Getty Images

“He was traveling with me from such a young age, for so many years before he ever stepped on court as a player,” Mischa said. “He went on Center Court against Rafa at the Australian Open this year, but he’d been there before. So he kind of skipped the introduction phase. He feels like he belongs.”

Although Sascha has earned well over $5 million in prize money, and countless more in endorsements, he still lives with his parents and brother, in Monaco.

The family still circles the globe together, except during Asian swings, when Irina stays home with the family’s toy poodle, Lovik.

The balancing act is working better than ever. Mischa, who will be getting married in November, reached the quarterfinals at this year’s Australian Open after beating Murray, the No. 1 seed. Five months later, Sascha entered the top 10. The brothers are in the same section of the draw at the U.S. Open and could meet in the quarterfinals.

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