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Alexander Zverev at the French Open: defeated the wonder boy – sports

Alexander Zverev had to get through his service game one last time. Just one more time. Then he would be in the semifinals of the French Open. He had played excellently up to that point, leading 6:4, 6:4, 4:6 and 5:4. He had just made the break. He served to win the match. But just at that moment he played too passively, his opponent not. 5:5. It was a tricky phase now, because when a game that seems almost won slips away, doubts can spread.

But not at Zverev, not this Tuesday at the French Open.

The 25-year-old German tennis pro, number three in the world rankings, simply continued to play with such remarkable concentration, few mistakes and yet also offensively, as up to this moment. Zverev hasn’t always performed so quietly, so quietly, so controlled in his career, but he did it in this quarterfinals of Roland Garros. The fourth set was decided in a tie-breaker and it was close until the end. The opponent even had a set ball. But Zverev prevailed in this excellent duel, the second match point was there: After the 6: 4, 6: 4, 4: 6, 7: 6 (7) success, he reached the round of the last four for the second time in a row.

Not too bad considering he had a match point against him in the second round against Argentina’s Sebastian Baez. And that this Carlos Alcaraz was his opponent on Tuesday. The 19-year-old from El Palmar near Murcia has been called a wonder boy, which is certainly true given his rapid rise this season.

Before the duel with Alcaraz, Zverev complained that he had to play too often in the second largest arena

In the game, Alcaraz had a break ball in Zverev’s first service game. He missed the chance to make it 2-0 and so it was Zverev who was the first to secure an advantage. He took away Alcaraz’s service game to make it 3-2. At this level, that can already mean a lost set. And indeed, Zverev was much more stable than in the round of 16 against the Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles, when he made 64 unforced errors and was unnecessarily close to the world number 131. made.

Alexander Zverev at the French Open: His trademark: Carlos Alcaraz with one of his powerful forehands.

His trademark: Carlos Alcaraz with one of his massive forehands.

(Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP)

Zverev’s former manager, Patricio Apey, with whom he had broken up in an argument, once described him well when he said that Zverev had grown up in big stadiums, that these stages were his natural refuge. Before the duel with Alcaraz, Zverev complained a bit that he had had to play too often in the second largest arena, the Suzanne Lenglen court, three times on the way to the quarter-finals. Tuesday’s match against Alcaraz took place at the Philippe Chatrier court, in front of 15,000 spectators, and it was really amazing how Zverev immediately raised his level in this place.

He only made seven slight mistakes in the first set, which he won 6:4, seemingly without emotion like a clerk. There were only eight mistakes in the second set, more importantly: he also had structure in the game, which he didn’t really shine with against Zapata Miralles, for example. Alcaraz, on the other hand, was somehow alienated from the situation, for the first time after two night matches, he was now acting on the center court at a more comfortable temperature. He made mistakes he had seldom made before. Above all: He showed negative gestures, quarreled, once he briefly tapped the bat on the ground out of disappointment. Zverev, as they say in tennis, had crawled into his head, he had visibly lost his sovereignty. In the second set, Zverev managed the break to 5: 3. It was enough to play solid. Also in this round he held his serve, 6:4.

The longer the match lasts, the better the quality will be

There was only one way out for Alcaraz: he had to win three sets in a row. To do this, he had to improve and hope that Zverev might wobble. But he didn’t do him any favors, on the contrary. Alcaraz remained the more fragile actor of the two. Zverev had a breakball at 4: 4, that was the chance. He forgave, suddenly Alcaraz countered more courageously, whipped himself up with gestures and secured set three 6: 4.

The game remained tense, the importance was noticeable for both. The quality increased significantly, however, because both were now so focused. Some rallies were spectacular. Then came the fourth set. And Zverev hit the best backhand of his life on the second match point: his return hit the line like lightning. “I knew I had to play my best tennis,” he said in a brief on-court interview with former professional Alex Corretja. “I’m actually a good talker,” said Zverev, “but now I’m speechless.”

Luckily, when he appeared a good hour later for the press conference, which as always was held in the basement of the Court Philippe Chatrier, he had regained his ability to articulate. That was also practical, because one of the things to be clarified was how he, who liked to be impulsive, managed to stay so calm the whole time in the match. The quality of his game was obviously good. “I knew it would be a very long and very physical match,” explained Zverev, “I wasn’t allowed to show too many emotions because they also make you tired. That sucks energy out of you. That’s why I had to stay calm.” Surely his new coach, the cunning Spaniard Sergi Bruguera, who had triumphed twice in Paris, had encouraged him to take this approach. Maybe he should keep quiet more often.

For the first time, Zverev defeated a representative of the top ten in a Grand Slam tournament, which he had never managed to do before, a very curious fact despite his many successes. “I’m glad I managed to do that,” he said on the subject, “but that doesn’t concern me very much now.” In the semifinals he meets the winner of the Rafael Nadal game against Novak Djokovic, which not only sounds like an ultimate task, it is. “I’ve never beaten her in a major,” said Zverev, “hopefully I can bring the performance from the win back to the pitch today.” Should he actually win his first Grand Slam title next Sunday, he really would have gone the hard way from the quarterfinals.

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