• Tennis player Alexander Zverev has been coached by ex-professional Ivan Lendl since August.
  • Since then, the two have been puzzling and adjusting in the frontiers of elite sports, on the mental side, on technical finesse, in order to create the last hurdles on the big occasions.
  • Zverev's goal is actually medium-term nature: he wants to perform better in the Grand Slams. But even at the upcoming ATP Finals he has the chance to the biggest success of his career so far.

From Gerald Kleffmann, London

Comfortably they crawled on the seats, Alexander Zverev left, Ivan Lendl right. They were silent together. Then one said something. The other listened. Then the other answered. Suddenly, Lendl smiled, it was that snarling smile that you know from yesteryear, when he was a pro and got into memorable nerve battles with John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker. Lendl, he was the one who sawdust in the pockets of his too-tight tennis shorts. And that he used to have a drier grip. Lendl was the one who always had to serve as the evil in the duels with the Americans, but often enough he triumphed.

Two blemishes only clung to him: he never won Wimbledon. And once he let himself be paraded by a little schnibbler. Michael Chang twirled him at the French Open a serve from below rudely into the field. He looked bad, but his reputation as a rogue did not really hurt. As a coach, he even cemented this, as he helped the fickle Andy Murray years later to the first Grand Slam victories and Olympic gold.

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And that's why Lendl is now sitting in London in this small training hall, on a weekday at the ATP Finals in London. He should and wants to give this 1.98-meter giant from Germany his riot. What does it look like? Sometimes, that's no secret, just talk about dogs. Lendl is a dog fan. And Zverev's family also owns a small, Lövik's name is. And then, when tactical views on tennis are mixed, this is a climate Zverev likes to be comfortable with.

Ivan Lendl was given preference over Boris Becker

Alexander Zverev, 21, brother of Mischa, 31, also a professional, born in Hamburg, Russian tennis parents, number five in the world, resident Monte Carlo, soon in Dubai and on the Maldives on vacation, lives the successful tennis life. But to succeed, including three wins at Masters tournaments, is soon to add fame that is more sustainable than a quick-earned quarter-million at the Laver Cup.

That's why in August Zverev brought Lendl into the team, which he preferred to Boris Becker, also a confidant of his family. Since then, the two have been puzzling and adjusting in the frontiers of elite sports, on the mental side, on technical finesse, in order to create the last hurdles on the big occasions. And because both Zverev and Lendl seem like two protagonists who never quite look at the charts, they radiate something mysterious. Their cooperation is the most exciting project in the world, in which everyone agrees.

A "process that takes time and takes time," Zverev says, indirectly identifying the biggest challenge that may personally affect him: he has to tame his impatience. And be open to change. In any case, the interesting thing will be how much Lendl admits to Zverev. He probably will not stuff sawdust into his pocket, and German shepherd dogs have not done the same to him, who Lendl loves so much.

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