Written by By Hanna Burger, CNN
How do you follow up winning the ATP Finals? Winning tennis tournaments or a straight-to-filmmaker film about his childhood and family?
On July 10, young German tennis star Alex Zverev will follow the first of those paths when he will take to the small screen to make a documentary about his meteoric rise to global fame.
The 20-year-old hit the headlines last month after sealing his maiden ATP Tour title in London — beating world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in straight sets.
Standing tall, wingspans reaching over 6 feet, and a natural-born court bully, the world number 18 has had a meteoric rise, racking up 12 titles in his first nine professional tours.
“His style is a mix of risk, skill and aggression,” says producer Thomas Epermann, during a telephone interview ahead of the film’s world premiere at the London Film Festival (LFF).
“You don’t see it often anymore. So far, in his career, and in tennis, he has shown himself to be an authentic leader, a person you can trust — not only as a tennis player but as a person as well.”
Even when he has decided to quit a project to focus on other aspects of his life, Zverev “never backs down,” according to Epermann.
‘A little bit strange’
The goal for Zverev, a minor prodigy from the small town of Stuttgart, was always to make it to the top echelons of tennis. It became a lifelong quest.
“I have never had the opportunity to play a specific tournament or a specific tournament’s cycle and I have tried to win every single time,” he says.
His mother, his assistant, and a host of tennis experts were the ones who guided him through the nascent stages of his career.
Epermann describes the prodigy as “a little bit strange” — an “introvert” with “a lot of respect.” His self-assurance has obviously paid off in the short term, but Zverev says that “it’s not something that I think about.”
“I don’t think that winning is an indication of success,” he adds. “That’s not the case for me — you never win everything. This is definitely not the best way to live your life.”
His ascent to the top of the game is exciting to Tennis insider Andrew Castle, a former world number 14 and host of LFF show “Aces” — a programme dedicated to the sport — and “Friday Night Buddies.”
“He’s more intelligent than a lot of the players that you see on tour, more relaxed and he’s a bit of a thinker,” says Castle, adding that the documentary is a “compelling story.”
But has Zverev put himself in a position where he can take a big step forward next year?
“It’s a real question mark because he’s so young,” says Castle. “He has so much more potential and he’s so young. This is probably one of the most intriguing things of the year — what’s going to happen for Alex? I don’t know.”
“I do think he’s got a chance to win a slam, but I think it’s going to be a long road,” he adds.
Epermann calls the film “a movie about football.” Its storyline is simple: love, loss, joy, frustration and victory — all intertwined in the life of a young star.
The producer told CNN he wants to portray Zverev’s journey as “an excellently crafted masterpiece.”
“I want people to walk away from it with the feeling that it was beautifully crafted, that there were no wrong choices, no bad ideas, that they feel they learned something.”
The fact that the film will be first screened at LFF means that “it must be really successful,” he adds.
“I don’t think it could have come at a better time.”
Zverev has already signed a deal with Netflix for his post-tennis career, and Epermann thinks that film will be completed by the end of the year.