With one act of selfless generosity, Alexander Zverev gave fans every reason to get behind him at the Australian Open.
The German booked his place in the second round after a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 victory over Marco Cecchinato on Tuesday night in Melbourne.
‘PAY YOUR BILLS’: Fans roast comical fail in Nick Kyrgios clash
The 22-year-old seventh seed may not have gone into the contest as one of the strongest favourites in the men’s draw, but he ensured that he’d leave the court as the sentimental favourite.
Speaking after the straight sets win, Zverev left fans stunned with one of the most incredible promises yet for Australia’s bushfire cause.
The German announced that if he were to claim his maiden grand slam title in Australia, he would donate his entire prize money to the bushfire relief fund.
Zverev conceded that he was not the strongest candidate to raise the trophy on February 2 but, if he did, the A$4.12 million first prize would be by far the largest individual donation to the Aces for Bushfires appeal.
Alexander Zverev has pledged to donate EVERY single cent of his Australian Open prize-money if he's to win it all.— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 21, 2020
Looks like we have a new favourite. 😅🏆
Stream: https://t.co/yizqD30Pp8#9WWOS #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/tMritC0t7J
Zverev has not been in the best of form, however, so his further pledge of $10,000 for every match he wins in the tournament might work out to be a more realistic donation.
He said the glory of claiming a maiden grand slam title would be more than enough reward, without needing the multi-million dollar winner’s cheque as well.
"Obviously I'm more fortunate than maybe other people are. Every cent can help the Australian people, the Australian animals, the Australian nature in general," he said.
"If I win the Australian Open, I will be the happiest person on the planet. I think that the (money) will be in much better use in the hands that know what to do with it, and know how to help others."
Zverev made heavy work at times of his first-round victory over world No.77 Cecchinato but was just pleased to be back in the winners' circle after losing his first three matches of the season at the ATP Cup.
"I didn't play well at the ATP Cup," he said. "Everybody saw that. I was struggling a lot with my serve, I was struggling a lot with my groundstrokes. I think I was much more stable than I was there.
"This is a positive for me. Obviously there's a lot still to build. I think this is already getting better. So hopefully I can still get better in the next few days, maybe weeks."
Tennis great floors Kyrgios with superb bushfire pledge
Zverev's incredible promise came after John McEnroe endeared himself to Melbourne Park as well with a brilliant gesture of his own.
Following Nick Kyrgios' first round win against Italy's Lorenzo Sonego, the tennis great announced that he'd donate $1000 for every set the Aussie wins in the remainder of the tournament.
“The way you led the way for the bushfire relief thing and everything you've done, I have to tell you, well done, man,” McEnroe said.
“Absolutely outstanding efforts and I know a lot of people share the same view but I wanted to tell you personally that I'm proud of you.”
McEnroe's brilliant pledge and his kind words left Kyrgios visibly moved and the crowd at Melbourne Park in raptures.
Even a blackout on court didn't seem to perturb the sometimes combustible Australian.
At 3-4 in the second set Melbourne Arena fell into darkness, forcing a short break, but the issue was resolved quickly enough and didn't appear to disturb the momentum of the match.
While not always playing lights out tennis, there were the typical Kyrgios flourishes in the victory.
In the third game of the third set he hit a tweener lob which scored him the point, trying two tweeners on the next one only to draw a blank.
The 23rd seed got a solid workout from the world No.53 but was never broken and eased to victory in two hours and 13 minutes.
Despite appearing at ease during the match, Kyrgios admitted being edgy as he took to the court, particularly given the focus on the Australian bushfires and his involvement in raising funds, saying he was playing "for a lot of people".
"Just with everything going on, walking out there, I was a lot more nervous than I have been in previous matches," he said.
"Australian Open, I usually feel pretty comfortable.
"The crowd was unbelievable. I got comfortable quite early in the match. I played an unbelievable first set, which helped. I thought the pressure kind of eased off after I won that first set (but) he didn't go away."
Kyrgios will now play Gilles Simon in the second round after the Frenchman beat Pablo Cuevas 6-1 6-3 6-3.
A spicy fourth round encounter looming with world No.1 Rafael Nadal should both players register two more wins.