Third-ranked Zverev set to defend Washington ATP crown

World number three Alexander Zverev begins his bid to defend consecutive ATP hardcourt titles at this week's 50th Washington Open.

The 21-year-old German, Alexander Zverev, hopes to repeat last year's success. (File Photo)   -  Getty Images

World number three Alexander Zverev begins his bid to defend consecutive ATP hardcourt titles at this week's 50th Washington Open.

The 21-year-old German hopes to repeat last year's success, when he beat South African Kevin Anderson in the Washington final, and then, beat Roger Federer, a week later, in the final of the Canadian Open.

“Washington is perfect preparation for Toronto and Cincinnati,” Zverev said, eyeing the major tuneups ahead of U.S. Open.

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“I've done a good two weeks of training, just general stuff. It was like a mini off-season for me, just a lot of work trying to get ready for the hardcourts.”

Zverev will be the top seed for the milestone edition of the Washington event ahead of ninth-ranked John Isner, who is coming off his career-best Grand Slam run to the Wimbledon semifinals and his 14th career ATP title last week in Atlanta.

The Washington champions' list includes such legends as Arthur Ashe, Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi.

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“This tournament has a list of great champions. I'm glad to be part of that and I'm going to do my best to win it again,” Zverev said.

Zverev seeks his ninth career ATP title and third of the year. He defended a claycourt crown in Munich, his first repeat title, and lost to Rafael Nadal in the final at Madrid in defending the Spanish crown. “Us young guys, we have to get through a lot of first times. I've been through that stage a lot already,” Zverev said.

A strong clay season set up his deepest Grand Slam run to date, a quarterfinal loss at the French Open to Austria's Dominic Thiem. But, Zverev fell to Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the third round at Wimbledon, dropping 12 of the last 15 games in a five-set defeat.

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This event marks the first week the ATP will use “shot clocks”, which allow players up to 25 seconds to serve, and enforce a seven-minute warm-up. Both limits will apply at the US Open.

“They have explained it to us. It's a change. I think it's a good thing they are trying it out before the US Open,” Zverev said.

“I'm one of the fastest players out there, so I don't think it will change much for me. It will be important to listen to players' reactions, to hear their opinions. It's going to be important for the ATP as well.”

Zverev said that he doesn't expect to have players use the clock to disrupt the timing of rivals during a match. “I'm not someone who tries to break my opponent out of his rhythm. I'm trying to play tennis better than my opponent. I'm not trying to break an opponent's rhythm. I'm not that kind of player,” Zverev said.