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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 when the journalists streamed into the press conference room. The 25-year-old’s look didn’t bode well, it was clear that he actually just wanted to leave.
“I’m sorry that I’m giving you such answers now,” said the third in the world rankings after the first questions, which he had answered with merciless 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 match in six or seven years.”

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

It should be the starting signal for the summit assault. In fact, for a long time it looked as if the mission could succeed. After the Olympics, Zverev won the Cincinnati Masters, the Vienna tournament, and the ATP Finals in Milan.

Zverev disappointed: “Worst match in six years”

In January he was only three wins away from jumping to first place in the ATP ranking 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, should bring back what has been missing for months: success and joy. “I was under so much pressure that sometimes I didn’t have fun,” Zverev admitted before the start of the competition. The year “started with so many chances to become number one. That was always in my head. I felt under extreme pressure and not free.”

The joy did not come back in Munich either, although everything had started so well. Zverev attended the Bundesliga summit between FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, and he completed the first training sessions on Aumeisterweg accompanied by his girlfriend Sophia Thomalla. Mom was there too, poodle Lövik raged across the court.

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 audience was willing to carry the two-time tournament winner through the match.

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

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

Is world number three really that easy to outmaneuver? On a bad day. Although he had “a little cold”, but that had no influence on the encounter 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 decisive factor at the moment.

Nervous and no forehand – the Zverev dilemma

Zverev served almost continuously at over 200 km/h against Rune, but this did not result in an ace. However, these “free” points are a cornerstone in the game of the 25-year-old. Just as bad: the forehand didn’t 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 game in Germany in front of a crowd after a long time.” Even in a 250 tournament, you can’t win a flower pot like that. I suppose.

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

There is hope that Zverev can turn his season around, especially since the collaboration with coach Sergi Bruguera is still young. There can, or better must, develop a lot. After all, 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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