A year after his serious ankle injury, Alexander Zverev starts at the French Open. Despite the form crisis, the Olympic champion is self-confident – and settles accounts with critics.
Alexander Zverev enjoyed the cheers from his young fans. Visibly relaxed, the tennis Olympic champion signed autographs for minutes after the first training session and showed no fear of contact with the location of his most serious injury when he returned to the French Open.
Instead, he switched directly to verbal attack mode in Paris, talked about the first Grand Slam title as a major career goal and settled accounts with critics such as Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
“Some of the experts out there also make pretty stupid comments. There were comments that I hadn’t developed any further in the last year. Yes, no shit (no shit), I wore a boot for seven months,” Zverev complained before his first round game on Tuesday in reference to last year’s serious ankle injury. “I’m 26 years old and I expect to achieve my goals and not let experts tell me that I’ll never play at the top again. I’ll prove that relatively soon.”
Paris opener against Harris
In the present, however, the former world number two has to prove again that he can build on the consistency, form and extra class of the past few days. At the start against the South African Lloyd Harris – 294th in the world rankings – Zverev is the clear favorite.
The memory of the multiple torn ligaments in the ankle in the epic semi-final against Rafael Nadal last year shouldn’t slow it down either. “This date was already very, very bold for me,” said Zverev, looking forward to the second Grand Slam tournament of the year. “Since it happened last year, this is the tournament I’m looking forward to the most.”
But since his comeback at the end of last year, he has been waiting for a win against a top player – and has to deal with unusual criticism. The German Wimbledon winners Becker and Stich criticized the media in unison for a lack of further development, US legend John McEnroe sees Zverev “at the lowest point of the past eight years”.
At least externally, the German number one no longer shows any self-doubt after thoughtful tones in the past few weeks. “I would like to win a trophy in a Grand Slam at some point, that’s no question,” he said at the end of a media round.
Zverev’s role in the classic clay court at Stade Roland Garros has changed. Instead of speaking to the world press on a large podium like the tournament favorites, Zverev sat on a white chair at a small table in front of tropical indoor plants before his start, away from the spotlight in the media area. “It’s nice to be here in a different way. I’m always seen as one of the big favorites in these tournaments,” Zverev analyzed his own role. “Now you might not see me like that, even if I feel very, very good.”
Djokovic encourages Zverev
At least rival Novak Djokovic always has his German opponent on the title bill. “He knows how to play big tournaments, he can always do damage against anyone,” said the two-time Paris winner.
Recently, however, this did not work in the Masters, the second highest tournament category, in the duels with the top names. Against the Russian Daniil Medvedev it was not enough to win several times, from the world number one Carlos Alcaraz from Spain there was a lesson on sand. If Zverev fails early at the French Open, there is a risk of a severe crash in the world rankings.
Now a change in the coaching position should also bring the turning point. Instead of the former French Open winner Sergi Bruguera, father Alexander Zverev senior gives the instructions during training. “Differences of opinion” led to the split with the Spaniard, more courage in the game is the declared goal. “I want to get back on my way, I want to get back to the top of the world,” said Zverev. This should start on Tuesday.
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.