Alexander Zverev before the double triumph and the end of a tennis era
Status: 2:29 p.m
In the semi-finals of the French Open, there will be an early final this afternoon. For Alexander Zverev, Paris is about his first Grand Slam title, for Rafael Nadal his last. A very special reward awaits the Germans.
Aon sand. Few, including himself, would not have thought that possible. For years, the experts had oracles as to where this great tennis talent Alexander Zverev would probably crown himself for the first time. In Wimbledon, most thought, if only because of German tradition. But even on hard court, the Hamburg player’s athletic and initially a little more offensive game was seen as promising at a young age.
In the red ashes of Roland Garros, however, hardly anyone expected a rise like Zverev can now do perfectly at the age of 25. Not this year anyway.
Ahead of the tournament, no one was talking about the world number three when it came to predicting the semifinalists at the French Open. Everyone was talking about Novak Djokovic’s Grand Slam comeback after his missed Australian Open, about the 19-year-old all-rounder Alcaraz and, of course, about Rafael Nadal.
“There’s something about that pitch that makes him play 30 percent better. Only by being on the pitch,” Zverev said of the Spaniard and his relationship with Court Philippe Chatrier. Nadal won an incredible 13 titles at the Stade Roland Garros, his record: 110 wins, three defeats. “He goes onto the pitch and suddenly his forehand is 20 kilometers per hour faster and he moves as light as a feather,” said Zverev. “There is no greater task than against Rafa on the Philippe Chatrier court.”
And this is exactly what he is facing now. Before the final for the first Grand Slam title and the second jump of a German to the top of the world rankings after Boris Becker, Zverev faces a much greater challenge. A Herculean task awaits in the semi-finals of the French Open. The Olympic champion has to compete with the best clay court player in history. After the tennis prodigy Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals, now the king of Paris. “It won’t get any easier,” said Zverev with a smile. The match is officially scheduled for Friday at 2:45 p.m.
Victory is a prerequisite for the big rewards that would then be at stake for him in Sunday’s final. And it would probably be synonymous with the end of an era.
After all, it could be the last French Open for the Paris darling, Nadal kept saying that during the tournament. The chronic pain in his foot is too much of a burden for him, and according to his own statements, he can only make it through the tournament with the help of the constant support of his personal doctor. It cannot be ruled out that it is Zverev who ends Nadal’s incredible relationship with Paris and possibly even his career. If he defeats the 35-year-old on Friday.
Alexander Zverev looks looser than in January
Zverev himself tries to hide that. Before the Australian Open in January, he had put too much pressure on himself. First Grand Slam title, number one in the world – all that weighed on him, in the round of 16 it was over against Canadian Denis Shapovalov. The same thing is now at stake in Paris. Zverev can once again fulfill his dream of the first Grand Slam title of his career, and the 25-year-old can storm to the top of the world rankings again. The difference to Melbourne: Zverev doesn’t let the topics outshine everything else this time.
Of course he knows the chances. “I’m at an age and at a point in my career where I want to win, where I should win,” said Zverev. But at the Bois de Boulogne he sees the great challenge more as an incentive than as a burden. Likewise, being the first German since Boris Becker in 1991 to be number one. In any case, his brother believes he is capable of both. “I think now is the moment when he can do it,” said Mischa Zverev in an interview with “Sports Illustrated”.
The German number one prepared for the second Paris semi-final in a row in a relaxed and calm manner. On Wednesday he worked himself out again on the Jean Bouin training ground, having booked the court with his team for three hours. On Thursday there was a slightly looser session over 90 minutes. The rest: routine. Same food, same game, same people around. “He’s someone who is very attached to his processes,” his brother said.
And they recently worked in the duels with Nadal. Zverev won three of the last four duels. In Paris, however, the laws of the clay court king apply.