Melbourne: Alexander Zverev has been tipped as a potential Grand Slam winner and lived up to his billing Tuesday by sweeping into the second round of the Australian Open in straight sets.
The 21-year-old world number four cruised past Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in 1hr 55min on Rod Laver Arena after coolly overcoming a minor first set blip when he lost his serve to the Slovenian world number 67.
Zverev dropped serve to trail 4-3 in the first set but broke straight back and from that point was never behind again in a dominant display.
"I was a little bit sloppy so it was a wake-up call to play better," said the German fourth seed who came into Melbourne brimming with confidence after an impressive warm-up in Perth's mixed teams Hopman Cup, but also carrying some niggling injuries.
"My body is close to perfection," he proclaimed after the match, bringing howls of laughter from the crowd when questioned about his fitness after the match by on-court interviewer Jim Courier.
"It looks great, because I'm standing next to you," he quipped to the American who won the Australian Open in 1992 and 1993.
Then more seriously he added: "I've had about 86 injuries and the ankle is still a bit swollen. But I've done everything right in my preparation. Now I either play well or I don't."
- Abject Slam record -
He ended 2018 by winning the biggest crown of his career when he overpowered Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals.
"Surely it was a great moment and really helped," Zverev told reporters, "because it's one of the biggest tournaments that we have in the world.
"To win it gives you a lot of great confidence to beat those players, because they have a lot of great confidence, as well."
But questions remain over whether this new kid on the block can dismantle the dominance of the old guard of Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
To do that he must end his abject record in Grand Slams -- a lone quarter-final at the French Open is all he has to show for 14 prior appearances on the biggest stage -- and to that end has recruited eight-time major champion Ivan Lendl to his coaching team.
"It's been good. I mean, obviously Ivan is giving a lot of good advice," said the German who has never got beyond the third round in Melbourne.
"It's not only this Grand Slam but we worked a lot last year as well after the US Open. Things don't just come together after you start working with someone one week or two weeks. It really takes time.
"I hope now it's going to be the period where it really starts showing."
Last year, seeded four, he crashed out in the last 32 to South Korea's Chung Hyeon.
He next faces Jeremy Chardy or Ugo Humbert who were facing off later Tuesday in an all-French clash....