First-Time Winner Spotlight: Mischa Zverev
It was well worth the wait for Mischa Zverev. Three years ago, the German was contemplating his future in pro tennis after struggling with a catalogue of injuries. Now, he is an ATP World Tour champion.
Zverev lifted his maiden trophy at the Nature Valley International, defeating Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4 on the grass of Eastbourne. With the win, he becomes the eighth first-time winner in 2018, matching last season's total. It marks the fourth consecutive year in which a player over the age of 30 has entered the winners' circle for the first time.
First-Time ATP World Tour Champions In 2018
|Roberto Carballes Baena||Quito|
|Frances Tiafoe||Delray Beach|
Congratulations, Mischa. How does it feel to hold your first ATP World Tour singles trophy?
Feels amazing, yes. It was definitely one of the emotional moments in my life. Beating Andy Murray in Australia was special, but there you win a match, you're still in it and the tournament's not over. But here you're the last one standing, pretty much, at the end of the week, and you have the trophy, so it's
definitely a very unique feeling.
Was winning this title something you'd always wanted to achieve when you decided to become a tennis player?
I always wanted to win at least a title. For many years I didn't believe in myself. I didn't think I was going to do it, especially when I was ranked 1100. But thank God I have my family and my brother and the whole team, my wife who is always telling me, 'No, you can achieve things, you can do big things. Just believe in yourself, work hard, and it's going to pay off one day.' Luckily I have them, and luckily I was able to listen to them, believe in myself, and just keep working and wait for it. Finally, I'm here. It's incredible.
You reached your first tour-level final nearly eight years ago in Metz. Has lifting this first trophy weighed on you at all?
I don't know. I need to digest the week and just wake up tomorrow and see how I feel and also see how I feel in my next matches. But it's definitely something that I can put a check mark on the box. It's just phenomenal. I don't know what to say. As a player, you work towards being the best, even if it's not maybe No. 1 in the world, but being the best in the tournament in that particular week.
There are so many tournaments, but it doesn't matter. If you're the last one there on Sunday or Saturday, that means you were the best in that week at this place. And this is something that everyone works for. It's just a unique and great feeling. I hope it's going to help me in the future. It's going to take pressure off of me. It's going to give me more confidence, show me that I can play five matches and win them all and win the tournament and I can do it physically and mentally. So I hope it's going to help me.
You have just registered your 125th tour-level singles victory in your career. How does this victory today rank among all of them?
It's probably the most important as far as getting the trophy. I mean, would I say was it the best performance, the best match or most emotional match? Probably not. I can think of matches like against Andy Murray in Australia or even John Isner in Australia where I was two sets to love down, match point down. Definitely incredibly emotionally different, but winning a trophy is just unique.
Last year was arguably the best of your career. You reached World No. 25. You beat Andy at the Aussie Open, as you said. Now that you have won this title, what's the next goal you have set your sights on?
Actually, try to improve my career-high [ATP] ranking. Just see what I still have in me. Just be up there. I think I want to finish in the Top 50 and try to play well and stay healthy and be ranked Top 100 for as many years as possible.
How motivating has your brother Sascha's success been? Obviously he's playing very, very well at the moment. Did he give you a call yesterday or this morning before the final?
Actually he gave me a lot of tips against Denis Shapovalov, because he played him a few times. He wasn't really able to help me out today because he hasn't played Lacko, and I think he hasn't
even practised with him in the past years.
But overall, he's someone who inspired me, who always made me believe in myself, because when we practise with each other, we have close matches and I can see that we're somewhat playing equally good. Then he goes on and wins big tournaments. That also makes me believe, okay, maybe I'm not too far off and I still have something inside of me which I can show one day.
So he's definitely been a big inspiration.
Is there anyone in particular you'd like to acknowledge or thank for getting you to this milestone in your career?
Anyone in particular? Probably I can't say, because it would be my mom, my dad, my brother, and my wife, because they are the closest people to me that help me 24 hours a day. But also, [physical trainer] Jez Green has been I think an unbelievable help, because since we started working, I was able to reach so many new goals and just achieve incredible things, which I wasn't even able to dream of before meeting him.
So he's definitely been a great, great support and he's done an amazing job with me. I was struggling with my physical condition back in the day, and now I actually feel like I can play five days in a row and I feel fine, or I can play best-of-five sets and I feel fine. He's someone that I want to really thank. He's done an unbelievable job with both of us, my brother and I.
And lastly, aside from tennis, what would you say are your favorite interests and hobbies?
Flying. I have a pilot's license. I love flying. Before going to bed almost every night I read up on airplanes, flying, and that's my passion outside of tennis.