By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Alexander Zverev will feel the heat in a group including world number one Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals next week but you will not see the German reaching for his towel.
The 21-year-old is a rarity on the men’s Tour where it now seems the majority of players towel down after virtually every point, sometimes after a rally lasting one shot.
The sight of ball boys or girls scurrying around to deliver sweaty towels on command to ratty players is not an edifying one and has become a bone of contention in the sport.
This week at the Next Gen Finals in Milan, players have been forced to fetch their own towels from boxes stationed in the corners of the court and while it might be a shock to the system for some, Zverev suggests it is about time.
“I’m probably the wrong person to ask,” he told a news conference at London’s O2 Arena.
“I think I’ve taken the towel once or twice this year, once in Acapulco and once in Washington when it was like 120 degrees and when it was 150 percent humidity.
“Maybe need to ask the Next Gen guys. I mean (Frances) Tiafoe takes the towel after every point and (Stefanos) Tsitsipas takes the towel after an ace or double fault.
“I heard Tsitsipas say it’s the ball boys’ job but I think the ball boys’ job is to give you the balls.”
While Zverev does not support many of the new innovations at the Next Gen Finals — a tournament for the best players aged 21 and under and which he skipped to play at the ATP Finals in London, he says towel rails or boxes could be a benefit.
“I think it would prevent players from taking the towel after every double fault, mis-hit return because sometimes it gets a little ridiculous in my eyes,” he said.
“Maybe players would then only use (the towel) when they are really sweating. For me (towelling) it’s more of a superstition than something which has an actual use.”
Zverev, who opens against Marin Cilic on Monday and will also face big-serving John Isner, said the shoulder injury that has dogged him during the European indoor season has improved.
“I took a few days off and its settling now. I’m ready to go again now,” he said.
Last year on his London debut Zverev failed to survive the group stage.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)