Alexander Zverev kneels in Munich – the oasis of well-being was just a mirage

Tobias Laure reports from the ATP tournament in Munich

Alexander Zverev was already sitting on the podium as journalists streamed into the press conference room. The 25-year-old’s gaze did not bode well, it was clear he really just wanted to get away.
“I’m sorry to give you such answers now,” said the third in the world rankings after the first questions he had answered with relentless self-criticism. Munich is the latest low point in a series of many disappointments for the Hamburger this season. Even more: “It was my worst fight in six or seven years.”

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Only the Olympic training suit that Zverev has been wearing regularly since winning the gold medal in Tokyo testified to better times. It’s almost nine months since the coup.

That should be the starting signal for the summit. In fact, it seemed for a long time that the mission could succeed. After the Olympics, Zverev won the Cincinnati Masters, the Vienna Tournament and the ATP Final in Milan.

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In January, he was just three wins from jumping to first place in the ATP rankings at the Australian Open. But on the final steps to the throne, Zverev stumbled. The end in Melbourne was followed by a final defeat in Montpellier and the scandal including disqualification in Acapulco. The following Masters trilogy of Indian Wells, Miami and Monte Carlo passed with mediocre results.

Zverev: The oasis of well-being was a fallacy

Munich, that was the plan, was to bring back what has been lacking for months: success and joy. “I was under so much pressure that sometimes I did not have fun,” Zverev admitted before the start of the competition. The year “started with so many chances to become number one. It was always in my head. I felt under extreme pressure and not free.”

The joy did not return to Munich either, even though everything had started so well. Zverev attended the Bundesliga summit between FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, and he completed the first training sessions on the Aumeisterweg accompanied by his girlfriend Sophia Thomalla. Mother was there too, the poodle Lövik raged across the field.

Feel-good atmosphere. Everything was done. When Zverev entered the very well-filled Center Court shortly after his opponent Holger Rune, it got really loud. The Munich crowd was willing to carry the two-time tournament winner through the match.

Zverev: “Would have lost to any player in the main draw”

Also? Everyone rubbed their eyes. The young Dane was by no means a brave but ultimately hopeless outsider. Instead, Rune rushed the German with a series of ingenious stops. “I do not usually do this with this frequency. But I knew Alex was usually far behind baseline, so I decided on this tactic,” the teenager later said.

Is world number three really that easy to maneuver? On a bad day. Although he was “a little cold”, but it had no effect on the meeting with Rune, assured Zverev at the request of Eurosport.de. He “would have lost to any player in the main draw today”. The statement may have come out of disappointment, but the fact is that in addition to the lack of joy, playful inadequacies are a crucial factor at the moment.

Nervous and no forehand – the Zverev dilemma

Against Rune, Zverev served almost uninterruptedly at over 200 km / h, but it did not result in an ace. However, these “free” points are a cornerstone of the 25-year-old’s game. Just as bad: the forehand did not work. With frightening penetrance, Zverev put the parade shot on the net. “I played without a forehand today,” said the tournament favorite. “In addition, I was very nervous before my first match in Germany in front of an audience after a long time.” Even in a 250 tournament you can not win such a flowerpot. I suppose.

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In the coming week, the grapes will hang much higher. Zverev has signed up for the ATP Masters in Madrid. Zverev’s biggest competitors are Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Stefanos Tsitsipas. Without a forehand, there will be no set to win in the Spanish capital. On one side. On the other hand, Zverev won the 2018 competition and proved that he manages the faster conditions at Madrid’s height well.

There is hope that Zverev can turn his season around, especially as the collaboration with coach Sergi Bruguera is still young. A lot can, or better should, develop a lot. He wanted to “change a lot and have the best year of my life”.

So it’s high time to turn things around.

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