Andy Murray’s ex-coach Ivan Lendl is transforming Alexander Zverev into a champion

IT WAS always going to take something special for Ivan Lendl to put down the golf clubs and return to professional tennis.

Having guided Andy Murray to unprecedented glory – notably two Wimbledon crowns and the World No.1 ranking – Lendl returned to the fairways 12 months ago, satisfied he had accomplished everything as a coach.

 Ivan Lendl returned to tennis to coach Alexander Zverev and it has paid off

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Ivan Lendl returned to tennis to coach Alexander Zverev and it has paid off

Yet his tennis hiatus only lasted nine months when he picked up the racquet once more to take on the challenge of turning Alexander Zverev, 21, into the future of men’s tennis.

Not an easy task, and yet as he showed against Roger Federer and then Novak Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals, Zverev has the mental fortitude to take on the world’s best stride-for-stride.

Lendl clearly saw something that grabbed his attention.

Becker, the previous German to have won the ATP’s season-ending tournament, has seen the transformation under the stony-faced Czech-born mentor in just three months.

 Zverev, known for his big serving, is ranked fourth in the world and already has three Masters titles on his CV

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Zverev, known for his big serving, is ranked fourth in the world and already has three Masters titles on his CV

The three-time Wimbledon champion said: “I can sense Lendl’s signature mentally in him as he is taking on these big matches.

“He has consistently played world-class for the last 24 months,his breakthrough obviously came through last year.

"But this year he consolidated that, winning the Masters in Madrid and then winning the biggest title of his life in London.”

Zverev, known for his big serving, is ranked fourth in the world and already has three Masters titles on his CV. 

 The German star has thrived under Lendl

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The German star has thrived under Lendl
 Murray enjoyed huge success with Lendl

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Murray enjoyed huge success with Lendl

The Hamburg-born star lives in Monaco – like most tax-conscious sportsmen these days.

He speaks fluent German, Russian and English and is ambidextrous enough to play the guitar left-handed.

Zverev comes from his tennis family, who moved from Russia to Germany in 1991- his older brother Mischa, 31, is No.69th the world.

Both his parents played the sport – his father reached a singles ranking high of 175 in 1985 – and they travel the world to watch their sons.

 Zverev saw off Novak Djokovic in the ATP World Tour Finals in London

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Zverev saw off Novak Djokovic in the ATP World Tour Finals in London

Often they are accompanied by their little passionate pooch Lovik, who fits neatly into a designer holdall bag.

Photogenic-wise, the younger Zverev has the film-star looks, the brooding presence, the cockiness and self-assurance with his game. Little wonder he has twice featured in issues of the fashion bible Vogue.

Cheshire-based fitness coach Jez Green, who used to work with Murray, has toughened up physically his skinner frame and improved his endurance.

ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev is greeted by his mum and the family dog after beating Novak Djokovic

Despite his 6ft 6in height, he moves well across the court and has a solid backhand- by his own admission, his forehand needs improvement.

Zverev says Lendl is not as scary as his reputation makes out, the tennis star said: “It surprised me that he’s a very, very nice guy. I didn't know it. He’s an unbelievable guy.

“Ivan is very warm-hearted, the people he’s close to, he really loves, and does everything for them, which I admire a lot. I try to be the same way.

“But if you’re going to be strict with me with rules and stuff, the relationship is not going to last very long- e understood that very quickly.”

 The quarter-finals at Roland Garros this year have been his highlight at major level

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The quarter-finals at Roland Garros this year have been his highlight at major level

Undeniably, the big target for Zverev is to make a serious impact at the Grand Slams. The quarter-finals at Roland Garros this year have been his highlight at major level.

Thirteen of the past 16 majors have been won by elder statesman Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

Many have tried over the past 15 years to upset the Big Three, enjoying reasonable success – Andy Murray, Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and Stan Wawrinka for example.

Yet Becker, 50, believes his fellow countryman has the ability to break this cartel on a regular basis.

 Zverev celebrated his win with his family and his pet pooch

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Zverev celebrated his win with his family and his pet pooch

“Sasha is a gentlemen with a sense of humour, who can talk, and laugh about himself,” crowed Becker.

“A star has arrived. The world has seen a new superstar in tennis.

Not only for the fact he has beaten the world no.1 and Roger Federer, the way he carries himself. He understands the responsibility that title has and he has done a great job with it.”

Alexander Zverev emotional as he defies odds to beat Novak Djokovic to win Nitto ATP Finals

IT WAS always going to take something special for Ivan Lendl to put down the golf clubs and return to professional tennis.