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Monday, February 6, 2023

Australian Open: Zverev wants the rhythm, Niemeier the “revenge”

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Returnee Alexander Zverev starts at the Australian Open with dampened expectations, but a success at the start is mandatory. On the other hand, the supposedly toughest opponent is waiting for Jule Niemeier.

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For the last time, Alexander Zverev’s thoughts revolved around that fateful accident more than seven months ago, then the tennis Olympic champion switched to restart. “In Paris I could have won the French Open and become number one in the world,” said the 25-year-old shortly before the start of the Australian Open: “I don’t think I’m there at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I’m there cannot change.” His comeback on the Grand Slam stage should become the basis for later great deeds.

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Nobody expects the title in Melbourne – but in the first round duel on Tuesday (not before 7:00 a.m. CET/Eurosport) against the Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas, a win is a must. Otherwise, Zverev would have failed with his main goal of improving from round to round and collecting important match practice. “It must now be a matter of surviving the first round as well as possible and without an accident,” said ex-tennis star Boris Becker, who works again as a Eurosport expert after his release from prison.

Niemeier meets Iga Swiatek in round one

A move into the second round by Jule Niemeier would be a surprise. The Dortmund player will already be playing against none other than the world number one Iga Swiatek from Poland in the Rod Laver Arena (9.00 a.m. CET/Eurosport) on Monday.

Last September, Niemeier narrowly lost to the later tournament winner in the round of 16 of the US Open. “I want revenge and, of course, to win. That’s exactly how I go into the match,” said the Wimbledon quarter-finalist confidently: “Night session on a large pitch – I showed last year that I was very good there and I like it .”

Swiatek, who recently complained about shoulder problems, may have hoped for a different draw. “I don’t think she was happy,” said 23-year-old Niemeier with a grin. The fact that her friend Eva Lys (21) is starting in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time thanks to a strong qualification gives confidence for the future in German women’s tennis. Three-time Grand Slam tournament winner Angelique Kerber is missing because of her pregnancy.

From a German point of view, however, Zverev has the best chance of entering the second week of the tournament. Internationally, however, the 2020 Australian Open semi-finalist will initially play a supporting role: the organizer did not award his opening match against Varillas to the more important evening event and not to one of the three largest stadiums. Zverev has to fight for the big stage again. The draw meant well for the Hamburger, but he doesn’t want to think too far ahead. “I have to see how the first match will be. Then we’ll see.”

Zverev on thoughts: “What can I improve?”

The serious foot injury in the French Open semi-final against the Spanish Grand Slam record tournament winner Rafael Nadal no longer concerns him, at least mentally. “I don’t think about the injury every day,” Zverev revealed: “My thoughts are more: What can I improve? How can I get back in shape? What else do I have to train for?”

Becker thought that was the right attitude, because Zverev’s situation was “about the psyche. This development does not take place in training, but in the match situation.” The six-time Grand Slam tournament winner is certain: “We will see a better Zverev from set to set.”

In addition to Niemeier, five other German players will start the first Grand Slam tournament of the year on Monday: Daniel Altmeier against the American Frances Tiafoe, Tamara Korpatsch against the British Emma Raducanu, Lys against the Spaniard Cristina Bucsa, Oscar Otte against the Chinese Shang Juncheng and Yannick Hanfmann against the Australian Rinky Hijikata.

Source: Stern

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