Alexander Zverev will take an 11-match winning streak into the U.S. Open later this month after adding the Western & Southern Open title to his Olympic gold medal, but he still rates Novak Djokovic as favorite to take the title at Flushing Meadow.
The German world No.4 defeated Russian Andrey Rublev 6-2 6-3 in less than an hour in Cincinnati to win his second Masters 1000 tournament of the season and fourth title in all.
Zverev came up just short of landing his first Grand Slam title in New York when he lost the final to Dominic Thiem last year but said his preparations this season had been very different.
"I was still finding my game during the U.S. Open last year, but it worked well for me," the 24-year-old told reporters after the final.
Gold medalist Alexander Zverev of Team Germany at the award ceremony for tennis men's singles at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan, August 1, 2021. /CFP
"I was pretty close to winning it. But I'm looking forward to what's in it for me this year, and we'll see how it is once I arrive there.
"I'm looking forward to it because I know where I stand, I know how I'm playing, and I hope I can continue the work and hopefully play even better in New York."
The season's final Grand Slam event will be missing five players who have been champions in New York in 12 of the last 17 years, including tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Their absence presents a good chance for one of the young guns in men's tennis to snare a Grand Slam title.
Novak Djokovic during the men's final at the 2021 Wimbledon Championships in London, UK, July 11, 2021. /CFP
Three champions are still lined-up for New York – Djokovic, the winner in 2011, 2015 and 2018, the 2012 champion Andy Murray and Marin Cilic who lifted the trophy in 2014.
World No.1 Djokovic has arrived in New York before the U.S. Open which kicks off on August 30, and he will be chasing a calendar Grand Slam as well as beating the record of 20 Grand Slam men's singles titles shared with Federer and Nadal.
"I do think that he's still the favorite," 24-year-old Zverev added.
"I do think he's going to be playing incredible tennis there. He's going to be fresh, and I think there is also other guys that are in very good form.
"Let's see how it goes ... I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I have to find my rhythm in New York as well."