Could it finally be time for German’s year? (Even if it’s not)

The 22-year-old German has the talent to match the breakthrough performances of the young guns of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, but he has yet to prove that he can shed the reliance on big serves and big forehands that his peers are blessed with as well.

Perhaps he’s too old for the latter, considering that starting in 2018, Zverev will be eligible to compete in the men’s grand slam events. The official best-of-five format for tennis should provide Zverev with a chance to become the first German to win a major since Boris Becker won the 1984 French Open, but he’ll need to start producing at a higher rate to take his starting ranking past 40 before he can begin to make an impact.

Zverev only made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon last year — a respectable effort, though one that would have qualified as one of the best in the men’s draw if not for the uninspired exits of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. At this year’s U.S. Open, he made it as far as the fourth round but was ultimately eliminated by Steve Johnson, the U.S. player expected to get drafted by the Washington Wizards during this year’s NBA draft.

(Johnson himself was eliminated earlier this week in the first round of the ATP tournament in Delray Beach. He is ranked a career-high 36th in the world.)

Zverev’s ranking, while up from 25th after his success at the ATP Finals, remains well below where he wants it to be. It could well get worse, though. Zverev’s next appearance on the ATP Tour comes at the April 25-29 Barcelona Open. With Jack Sock and Alexander Zverev providing the only left-handed opponents, Zverev could have a chance to win the tournament for the first time and earn his first victory on clay, a surface that always seems to faze the German.

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