By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - World number seven Alexander Zverev has just put another rollercoaster year behind him and is now hoping to shine at the Australian Open and finally land the maiden Grand Slam title that has been eluding him.
Arguably one of the most gifted players on tour, the towering 23-year-old German made more headlines off the court than on it last year.
They included taking part in the ill-conceived Adria Tour during the COVID-19 outbreak, the legal battle with his former agent, partying in Monaco amidst the pandemic, or what he called the unfounded domestic abuse allegations of a former girlfriend.
He also split with coach David Ferrer, the third 'super coach' to leave him after Ivan Lendl and Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Zverev reached the U.S. Open final and Australian Open semi-finals last year but both times lost to Austrian Dominic Thiem.
Now Zverev hopes he can shut out his personal life when he is on court and emulate Thiem, who finally ended a run of near misses in grand slam finals by winning his first major at the U.S. Open last September.
"All these stories that I had were not good," Zverev told Eurosport. "But you have to learn from them. You have to become a better man. In the past I did not know how to handle them and I carried them onto the court."
"Now I have problems off the court but I can shut them out. I had to learn that the last year," he said.
Having parted ways with Ferrer at the end of the year, Zverev will again rely on family support from his father and brother Mischa to power him through the rounds in Melbourne.
With 13 tour titles to his name, he is clearly again one of the contenders for the title in Australia. But whether he will live up to those lofty expectations remains to be seen.
"I worked extremely hard in the off-season," Zverev told reporters ahead of the year's first Grand Slam. "I would like to think that I did everything I could to be as well-prepared as I can be."
Fellow German Boris Becker, who briefly coached Zverev during the ATP Cup last year, is convinced he will start delivering.
"A lot happened last year for him -- in terms of sports and his private life. In sporting terms, it was perhaps his best, in his private life perhaps the most difficult," Becker said.
"Tennis starts at 0-0 and that's how I see it with him."
(This story refiles to changes paragraphs 5 and 6 to make clear Zverev wants to emulate Thiem's Grand Slam success)
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)