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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Alexander Zverev

"We know that he wants to pass on the knowledge to the guys he thinks are gonna be great as well," Alexander Zverev said of Roger Federer.

Photo credit: Hopman Cup Facebook

INDIAN WELLS—Roger Federer is the Grand Slam king on court and a major mentor off court.

Meeting with the media at Indian Wells today, Alexander Zverev, who grew up looking up to Federer, detailed how the 20-time Grand Slam champion lifted his sagging spirits after his grueling five-set loss to Hyeon Chung in the Australian Open third round.

Watch: Indian Wells Live Blog

“I didn’t expect it. I was kind of sitting on my bench in the locker room,” Zverev said. “(Federer) was actually on the other side of the locker room. He came up talking to me he could see I was really upset and bummed out. Losing a five-set match in a Grand Slam is not the easiest, especially that I knew I was actually playing all right.

“If you listened to my (Australian Open) press conference afterwards, I actually knew that Chung was going to play well the next two matches. I said, ‘be careful don’t look at his ranking too much, he’s playing great.’ And that was the case. He got to the semifinals, so I knew that if I would have won that match maybe I could have made a run as well.”

That discouraging defeat led to an encouraging piece of personal perspective from Federer.

“That was obviously not very easy. But obviously it was also very encouraging,” Zverev said. “(Federer) told me a story the first time he got past the (Grand Slam) quarters he was already 22 years old. So, for me that was very encouraging. He’s the greatest player of all time and he told me something like that he never made it past the quarters (of a Grand Slam) until he was 22. And I’m only 20 years old so in that case I still have time to win a few majors I’m guessing (laughs).”

The young Federer felt the sting of Grand Slam growing pains.

In 2003, a 21-year-old Federer won Munich, reached the Rome final and arrived in Paris with high hopes only to get crushed by 88th-ranked Luis Horna in straight sets in his Roland Garros opener.

After that dispiriting defeat, some said Federer might go down as a great shot maker who lacked the spirit and spine to master a major. Federer responded by winning Halle then defeating Mark Philippoussis to capture his first Grand Slam crown at Wimbledon.

Now, Federer is trying to pay it forward mentoring Zverev and other young talents he believes can be the future of the game.

The father of four's grace mentoring opponents does not surprise Zverev--he’s seen Federer aid other players.

“I think most people know what kind of guy (Federer) is already,” Zverev said. “We know that he is one of the nicest guys on tour. We know that he wants to pass on the knowledge to the guys he thinks are gonna be great as well. He’s done that on a few occasions with Grigor a little bit and when he was a little bit younger.

“He’s doing that with me a little bit now. He’s trying to talk to me, he’s trying to give me advice—even in practice when he sees something I should do maybe different, maybe play a shot a different way he’s helped me. So he’s obviously someone that understands that he is a great player but at the same time he’s not going to play forever and he’s someone that wants to keep tennis in great hands and keep the tennis level at the highest level it can be and he’s obviously doing everything he can to help that.”


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