Olympic gold, 2020 near miss motivate Zverev ahead of US Open

Winning Olympic gold has helped ignite a Grand Slam fire in Alexander Zverev as he chases a US Open title after coming within two points of capturing it last year.

FILE PHOTO: Zverev, coming off a title last week at Cincinnati in a event where he hadn't won a prior match, burns for his first Grand Slam title after falling to Dominic Thiem in last year's championship match on the New York hardcourts.   -  AP

Winning Olympic gold has helped ignite a Grand Slam fire in Alexander Zverev as he chases a US Open title after coming within two points of capturing it last year.

The German fourth seed, coming off a title last week at Cincinnati in a event where he hadn't won a prior match, burns for his first Grand Slam title after falling to Dominic Thiem in last year's championship match on the New York hardcourts.

"It fueled gas into the fire a little bit because I was two points away from winning it," Zverev said Friday.

"I've practiced on center court now a few times. There are still memories there. Still have that in the back of my mind. I'm very motivated. I'm very much looking forward to getting back on that court and starting to compete because I was not far away," he added.

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Thiem and 20-time Grand Slam champions Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are out with injuries and Novak Djokovic, a 20-time Slam winner going for the calendar-year Grand Slam, lost to Zverev in the Olympic semifinals.

"It has been a pretty incredible month for me," Zverev said.

"Winning the gold medal is something that you don't even dream about as a tennis player because it's just so surreal in a way. It's incredible the feeling that [it] gave me, and also the Cincinnati week has been pretty good. I feel well. I hope I can kind of continue this wave here in New York and we'll see how it goes," he added.

The haunting memory of being so close to a long-sought Grand Slam title has given the 24-year-old something to prove in the Flushing Meadows fortnight.

"Two points away last year here. I wasn't far away. I've always since then still had memories of that. I still have thoughts on that," he said.

"I'm very happy to be back here, because now I can feel like I can go out on that court and I can prove myself, whether I got better since last year. I feel like I'm playing great tennis this year."

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No new 'Big 3' near

Zverev is among a seeded group of rising young stars that also includes Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini.

"We're having great battles. We're having very entertaining matches," Zverev said.

"I think a lot of tennis fans are also looking forward to those matchups."

But the German warned not to expect another "Big Three" era such as Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have produced.

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"The top three guys, they've been dominating for the past 15 or 20 years. We might never see that again," Zverev said.

"Don't expect this group of guys to be the next Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. I don't think the four of us are going to win 20 Grand Slams in the next 15 years each. That's not how it's going to go. I think we're going to split them among us maybe. But the dominance those guys had is something you see once in a lifetime probably," he added.

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