Tennis legend Roger Federer has further cemented his universally-acknowledged Nice Guy status by offering the ultimate gift of sportsmanship to a fellow, much younger player.
Twenty-year-old world number four Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev has struggled with his performances on grand slam stages in the last year, despite being ranked in the top five players in the world.
In a press conference after his third round loss on Saturday, Zverev admitted he needs to figure out his grand slam struggles after bombing out of the Australian Open in the third round for the second year running.
Zverev said former world number one Federer had spoken to him in the locker room after the match, offering him some words of encouragement and a touch of wisdom.
However, he didn’t elaborate on exactly what was said.
Later that day, when Federer had his own press conference following his win against 29th seed Richard Gasquet, he told the press what he told Zverev.
“I just think it’s important to sometimes take a step back and actually see the good things you’ve done, give yourself time, maybe set the bar a bit lower,” Federer said.
“That’s what I told Sascha. I said, ‘Be patient about it. Don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure. Learn from these mistakes. Whatever happened, happened’. I just thought some nice words would maybe cheer him up.”
The German fourth seed faded badly on Saturday in a 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 6-3 6-0 loss to South Korean rising star Hyeon Chung in three hours and 22 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.
It continues a run of underachievement at grand slams for Zverev, who is yet to live up to his enormous potential on the big stage.
The 20-year-old already has six ATP titles but is yet to reach the quarter-finals of a major from 11 attempts.
Describing his fifth-set issues as nothing to do with physical conditioning, Zverev conceded he was putting too much pressure on himself to perform in the majors.
"I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in grand slams," Zverev said.
"It happened at Wimbledon. It happened in New York. It happened here.
"I'm still young, so I got time. I definitely have some figuring out to do for myself."
And it appears Federer can see just that, extending an olive branch to a player who may just benefit from his wealth of experience.