sTennis professional Alexander Zverev prefers not to take off his glowing “Germany” jersey in Munich. It reminds him of winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics last year. After the best season of his career with a total of six titles, his expectations soared and Zverev announced his first Grand Slam win and No. 1 as goalscorer. Bypassing “bad luck” with injuries and “extreme stress” plans. The turning point will come in Munich.
In the clay court tournament at Iphitos, the 25-year-old is seeking his third title after 2017 and 2018. “I’m here and I have the feeling that a lot can change and I’ll have the best year of my life,” Zverev said. The thigh injury that held him back in the Monte Carlo semi-final appears to have been overcome. “Now this is not a serious injury. I think I will be able to play completely freely here.”
In training at the start of the week, the German struggled in his performance under the eyes of his girlfriend Sofia Tomala and new coach Serge Bruguera. The tarpaulin on the fence felt dissatisfied several times. Only when his dog Lövik rushed onto the field after training did Zverev’s mood improve.
For Zverev, this year’s traditional event is more than his “favorite tournament” in front of a domestic audience. In the round of 16 on Wednesday, the German will meet the Danish youngster Holger Ron. The tournament in Aumeisterweg aims to mark a turning point in a season without a title so far. A season that started “very disappointingly”.
“I started this year with a lot of chances to be number one. It was always in my head. I felt very pressured and not free,” he came in third in the world rankings. Especially at the Australian Open, where it was the last leg of the round of 16, he felt “uncomfortable” – both on the training ground and in the match.
Mental block affected his game. “I was under so much pressure that sometimes I didn’t have fun,” Zverev said. In the meantime, learn how to better deal with stress. “If you weren’t free and didn’t show tennis the number 1, you wouldn’t do it anyway. You have to start enjoying tennis and have fun again.” After about three months of disappointment in Melbourne, “the feeling of fun has slowly returned”.
Outburst of anger as a mistake
The gap in the world rankings for Serbian star Novak Djokovic is about 900 points. There are about 800 on the second Daniel Medvedev. At least the Russian, whose unorthodox style of play is nothing more than a clay court digger, could certainly outperform Zverev in the next few weeks. Winning the championship in the smaller event in Munich, where there are 250 points for the winner, will be the start.
Former Wimbledon champion Michael Stitch believes Zverev is truly capable of making a big turn around this year. “With all his successes, that must be his claim, and he also has a chance to do so,” Stitch said. But everything just has to fit. “He achieved that goal a few years ago and the next generation will follow with the top players,” the 53-year-old warned. Zverev now knows it’s time to make ends meet. “I’m 25. I’m going in the direction it should be the highlight of my career,” the Olympic champion said.
German fans should push him to do his best. And this despite the fact that the relationship between the man from Hamburg and his compatriots is contradictory. Since landing in Acapulco, where Zverev hit the referee’s chair with his racquet, the image has been cracked — again. In retrospect, Zverev calls outbursts of anger the biggest mistake of his life. In general, however, he has felt more support since the Olympics. “Of course I’m happy about that,” said Zverev, touching the letters “Germany” with his finger. “Germany is my home.”
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