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Australian Open 2018 Betting: Back Zverev to break up the Fab Four

Roger Federer with the trophy last year
Roger Federer with the trophy last year
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Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal dominated the Grand Slams in 2017 but Ralph Ellis thinks there could be a new kid on the block next year.

"He’s [14.5] to win the first Major of the year at the Australian Open and having successfully picked out Roger Federer when you could back him at [30.0] for the event last season, this time the young German will be my longshot."

I've lost count of the number of tennis pieces I've read in the last five or six years which have talked about "the changing of the guard."

Everybody has been looking for the next big thing, the next young superstar to dominate the men's game. And meanwhile Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have gone on sharing out the major honours.

Since a 21-year-old Juan Martin del Potro won the US Open title in 2009, only four of 32 Grand Slam tournaments have been won by anybody other than the Fab Four. And even then Stan Wawrinka, 28 when he collected the first of his three at the Australian Open in 2014, and Marin Cilic who was 26 when he won the US Open the same year, were hardly in the first flush of youth.

But, and whisper it softly, I think 2018 might just be the year for a new kid on the block to make his breakthrough because Alexander Zverev looks to have all the right credentials.

He's [14.5] to win the first Major of the year at the Australian Open and having successfully picked out Roger Federer when you could back him at [30.0] for the event last season, this time the young German will be my longshot.

He has height (he's 6ft 6ins), a powerful first serve that he's not afraid to follow up with a stinging second, he hits the ball hard from the baseline on both sides and moves well when he does go to the net. The technical bits are all there, and have been on show during a superb year that has taken him to number four in the world rankings.

The bit that has been missing is between the ears. I watched him play Jack Sock at the ATP Tour finals when he threw away the chance to make it to the semi-finals with some awfully erratic play.

Zverev was honest enough after that to admit he'd choked. But what impresses me is that he then did something about it, asking his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero to work on the mental aspect of his game.

"We are concentrating on that side of things," said the Spanish former world number one in an interview last week. "So far he has not had to face the pressure of expectation in his career and we are helping him to understand that."

Zverev won his first two Masters titles in 2017 but it was a different matter in the Grand Slams where he still hasn't beaten an opponent ranked in the top 50.

That can only be a problem in his mind not his technique, and you have to admire the decision of his father, former Russian tennis pro Alexander Zverev senior, to bring in Ferrero as outside help after having coached his boy alone until this year.

Zverev is already doing his pre-season work, with good reports coming from his camp alongside his older brother Mischa in Monte Carlo. He starts his warm-up for the Australian Open by partnering fellow German and former world number one Angelique Kerber in the Hopman Cup.

Funnily enough that was where Federer did his groundwork for Melbourne last year. I wonder if Zverev can have the same sort of explosive results.

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