Tennis at the French Open: Confidence is back

Alexander Zverev reached the third round of the French Open on Wednesday afternoon with difficulty and a little luck: in a victory of 2: 6, 4: 6, 6: 1, 6: 2, 7: 5 against world number 36. Sebastian Baez, 21, had to fend off a match point as the score was 4: 5 and 30:40. When he showed up for the press conference, he seemed so fresh and cheeky as if he had calmly won 6: 3, 6: 2, 6: 1 while reading a book. Once again, Nicola Arzani was the first to get her good mood.

With the media chief for ATP, the men’s tour, he teases from time to time, “can you please look at me when I speak, you asked me the question,” Zverev said this time with a laugh as he responded to Arzani’s first verbal presentation, before the journalists got their right. The relief of being alive in this tournament was palpable. It had not looked good for the 25-year-old German tennis professional for a long time.

“I had no rhythm, no solution, I had no plan and did not really know what to do,” Zverev admitted, saying sharply, “I played really bad.” Just in time, he started playing “more dominant, more aggressive,” which he judged correctly. He explicitly praised that Baez, the only 1.70-meter-tall Argentine from Buenos Aires, brave rubber wall type, was a very complicated task that he had to solve.

Argentine Sebastian Baez (left) gave Alexander Zverev a hard fight – and eventually had to admit defeat in five sets.

(Photo: Maya Vidon-White / Imago)

Occasionally, Zverev, he revealed, had already imagined his next vacation, “which relaxed me a bit by thinking about the beach.” He had a plausible explanation for his performance in the first two sets: “You can not play perfect tennis every day for two weeks. The champions who won here always found a way.”

Zverev, that is for sure, has placed himself in the tableau. In the next round, he is the clear favorite against the American Brandon Nakashima, after which the service giant John Isner, also from the USA, could wait for him. At the French Open, Zverev, last year’s semi-finalist at the Bois de Boulogne, always felt very comfortable, which is also reflected in a remarkable statistic: nowhere else has he mastered the match over five sets as well as here. And one aspect in particular could play into his hands.

At the Australian Open, he was in the eyes of the public because he had the chance to become number one in the world. It was a role he did not like. He strained up in the quarterfinals against Canadian Denis Shapovalov and was eliminated, clearly inferior.

Now, in the southwestern part of the French capital, 13-time title winner Rafael Nadal, world number one Novak Djokovic and Alcaraz are in the headlines, which is also reflected in the rush of their press conferences. “I have the impression that it’s good for him when the whole world is not looking at him,” German national coach Michael Kohlmann analyzed Zverev’s situation on Thursday. “I have a feeling this could be a really good situation for him.”

Zverev even seems to feel so free that, for the first time at two press conferences, he openly confessed to mental health issues that he had to deal with this year. He never talks about it, he said, but then he did: “I struggled a lot with other things, I was not happy,” he said after the victory in the second round against Baez, “I was quite depressed at times.”

He referred to the pressure he felt as a public figure, “we are constantly in the spotlight” – and he in particular. An investigation is still awaiting at ATP, an ex-boyfriend of Zverev had made allegations of domestic violence against him. And at the tournament in Acapulco, Zverev was unfavorable with a tantrum, he is currently still on trial and he could be ruled out the next time he breaks out. But since then, it must be said, he has had a perfect grip on the field.

Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies lose in doubles to a British-Finnish duo

Also under the radar as Zverev is Angelique Kerber, 34, in the women’s field, who unites the only two German professionals left in the individual tournament; Andrea Petkovic, the second German in round two, lost to Viktoria Asarenka of Belarus 1-6, 6-7 (3); In the first round, Nastasja Schunk from Ludwigshafen did a great job 4: 6, 6: 1, 1: 6 against the former Paris winner Simona Halep. For the first time in Paris, the two-time French Open champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies lost 4: 6, 2: 6 in doubles against the British-Finnish duo Lloyd Glasspool / Harri Heliovaara.

Tennis at the French Open: Despite a good performance, the tournament in Paris is already over for her: Andrea Petkovic.

Despite a good performance, the tournament in Paris is already over for her: Andrea Petkovic.

(Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP)

In the first round, Kerber even had to fend off two match points against Magdalena Frech from Poland, but then there was a 6-1, 7-6 (2) victory over the young Frenchman Elsa Jacquemot. In the second set, Kerber was not great, but something else is more important to her: “It’s a good feeling to win matches again, to have these tight situations under control again.”

She openly admitted: “I mean the last couple of years have not gone so well. I think before the tournament, not everyone had expected me to win a round or two. Now I’m in the third round.” She exudes the confidence that has already led her to three Grand Slam titles.

Tennis at the French Open:

“Once you’ve achieved everything, play for the love of the game”: Angelique Kerber in Paris.

(Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP)

Her prospects are not so bad, this Friday she meets Alijaksandra Sasnowitsch from Belarus, the strong Tunisian Ons Jabeur on her half has been eliminated, suddenly Kerber could be in Paris of all places, the Grand Slam tournament as she was the only one , who was not to win, cheated into the second week – with a steadily approaching, tempting goal: If she wins her next five matches, she would have reached the grand slam of her career. Only ten women managed to win all four majors at least once. Stefanie Graf has already done it.

“Of course it would mean a lot to me,” Kerber said of the prospect that she too could become part of this elite circle. “But it’s still too far away to even think about it. If it happens, we can talk about it. Of course it would be a dream.” She actually seems relaxed that winning the title last Sunday in Strasbourg has a positive effect. So Kerber became really romantic when she said, “Once you’ve achieved everything, you play for the love of the game.”

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