NEW YORK (Reuters) - When the U.S. Open began, the idea that a German man named Zverev would be in the last 16 would barely have raised an eyebrow.
But while Alexander, who has won five titles in 2017, went out in round two, it is his older brother Mischa who has been doing the family name proud.
At 30, Mischa Zverev has enjoyed a superb year, putting the gloss on a stunning rise up the rankings, from outside the top 1000 in 2015 to the verge of a place in the top 20.
A year that began with a shock win over world number one Andy Murray at the Australian Open has taken him all the way to the last 16 here, where he plays American Sam Querrey for a place in a grand slam quarter-final for the first time.
What makes the left-handed Zverev stand out is his playing style, almost a throwback to a previous generation when serve and volley tennis was the norm. In 2017, less than 10 percent of points are conducted at the net but even in these days of baseline supremacy, Zverev has shown that it is possible to take the attack to the opposition, winning 41 of 57 points at the net in his third-round win over John Isner, the 10th seed.
“I think my baseline game was not good enough, so I had to choose Plan B, which was serve and volleying to try to be successful on the court,” Zverev said.
“My dad was a serve-and-volleyer too. He was very intelligent and smart as a coach because he recognised baseline is good, but I don’t think you can fulfill your potential by staying on baseline so let’s try something else. “He taught me how to volley, how to come in, how to approach certain shots, analyse players and their passing patterns.
“I think it was a combination of just life happened and luckily Dad recognised I was a better serve-and-volleyer than baseliner, and I said, OK, I agree.” The success of the Zverev brothers is very much a family affair, with their parents taking on coaching duties.
The elder Zverev first broke into the top 100 in 2007 but a series of injuries, wrist, ribs and knee, left him in limbo.
The emergence of his younger brother, however, helped inspire Mischa to go for it again and he will take on Querrey knowing he is closing in on the top 20 for the first time in his career.
Zverev took Isner apart in the third round but though the bottom half of the draw is wide open, he expects a tougher challenge from Querrey, who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
“I know that ranking and draw is irrelevant,” he said. “Querrey has had an unbelievable year. Looking at the last couple months, he is maybe not ranked top 10 in the world, but he’s somebody who played really good tennis in the last couple months.”
Editing by Ed Osmond