Mischa Zverev exclusively: Why Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev are not the top favorites at the US Open

Mischa Zverev exclusively: Why Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev are not the top favorites at the US Open
“For me, Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev are not so much the favorites,” says Mischa Zverev a few days before the start of the US Open (live on discovery+ from August 29).

There are two reasons for this. On the one hand it is due to the results of the past few weeks, on the other hand the tournament with its late termination in the season is predestined for unexpected winners.

“Even Novak Djokovic didn’t quite have the power to win the US Open in 2021 after three Grand Slam titles and as number one in the world,” explains the former world number 25, who advanced to the round of 16 of the US Open in 2017 .

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However, Zverev is skeptical about the coaching that the ATP is currently testing and that is allowed in New York for the first time at a Grand Slam event. You are generally moving “in a gray area”, explains the older brother of Olympic champion Alexander Zverev. He can only think of one player who can do without any coaching at all, like Zverev, who played the US Open as a TV expert at Eurosport accompanied, betrayed.

Tobias Laure conducted the interview

Out of your head, Mr. Zverev: How many different nations do the top 10 in the world currently come from?

Mischa Zverev: Ten?

Nearly. It’s nine…

Zverev: … because there are two Spaniards in Carlos Alcaraz and Nadal, that’s true.

Is this range at the top of the world a sign that the big tennis nations have lost their dominance?

Zverev: Not necessarily, at least it’s not the end of the great tennis nations. Let’s take Spain. There are a lot of strong players there now and it will stay that way. The geographical location, the opportunity to play outside almost all year round and the large number of tennis academies are a real advantage of the location. But it’s nice to see that smaller countries like Norway or Greece, where tennis isn’t as important, are now producing top professionals. We’ve gotten so far in tennis that it almost doesn’t matter where you’re from. You can fulfill your dream in this sport almost anywhere.

Now the US Open is coming up, which is also a physical battle of attrition due to the best-of-five mode and the duration of more than two weeks. Nadal had himself injected for every game at the French Open and canceled Wimbledon before the semifinals. In your opinion, where is the red line when it comes to the use of medication and painkillers and how does your brother Alexander Zverev go about it?

Zverev: I have never been a fan of aggressive procedures, by which I mean injections or painkillers, throughout my career. It was important to me to do it the natural way. I used bandages or the help of a physiotherapist to “blunt inject” a nerve, but that was out of the question. I wanted to feel the pain, because such a reaction is always a warning signal from the body. Now comes the but: Unlike Nadal, I’ve never been in a Grand Slam semi-final or final. For me it wasn’t about attacking and breaking records that might stand for the next 100 years. So I’m reluctant to judge Rafa’s situation. I was never in his position and I have huge respect for his achievements.

Nadal exclusively: “I had no feeling in my foot. That was the only way I could play”

And your brother?

Zverev: Luckily Sascha wasn’t in a situation where it would have been necessary to think about an injection to numb a nerve or anything like that. He sustained the first major injury of his career at the French Open in May. He and the team therefore exercise caution and approach this cautiously.

Alexander Zverev is not the only prominent failure at the US Open, Djokovic and Roger Federer are not there either. Only Nadal and defending champion Daniil Medvedev remain as top favorites – right?

Zverev: I disagree. For me, Rafa and Daniil are not so much in the role of favourites. Nadal has only played the Masters in Cincinnati since Wimbledon and lost his opening match there. And if we look at the tournament winners of the past few weeks, a colorful picture emerges. Lorenzo Musetti wins in Hamburg, Jannik Sinner in Umag, Washington went to Nick Kyrgios, at the Masters in Montreal and Cincinnati the champions were Pablo Carreño Busta and Borna Coric. That shows me that we have a very open starting position at the moment.

Daniil is an extremely good player. When he performs at his best, he wins 99 percent of his matches. But when I look at former world number ones like Nadal, Federer or Djokovic, I see clear differences.

Nevertheless, why do you doubt Medvedev? The man is the defending champion and number one in the world.

Zverev: No question, Daniil is an extremely good player. When he performs at his best, he wins 99 percent of his matches. But when I look at former world number ones like Nadal, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, I see clear differences. In these phases, they often played like they were from another planet. You often asked yourself: ‘How do they do it, how do they get this or that ball, how can they unpack such shots?’ When the three played at their highest level, it was clear that no one could beat them. It’s different with Medvedev. From my point of view, the opponent always has a chance to beat him – which of course doesn’t change the fact that he is an outstanding tennis player.

Mischa Zverev at the US Open 2017

Fotocredit: Getty Images

In fact, the US Open is the most open of the four Grand Slam tournaments, with seven different champions over the past decade. Do you have an explanation for this?

Zverev: Yes. It is due to the late scheduling in the seasonal calendar. It’s usually the case that the professionals who shine in the first six or seven months weaken in the second half of the year. Even Djokovic didn’t quite have the power to win the US Open in 2021 after three Grand Slam titles and being number one in the world. You have to see that the so-called summer swing in Europe costs a lot of grains, which are sometimes missing at the US Open.

Coaching is a gray area and has always been part of the game, albeit hidden.

A few days ago, John McEnroe put forward the thesis that it’s not bad at all if players like your brother or Jannik Sinner and Alcaraz only win their first Grand Slam title at the age of 25 to 30. Simply because they can deal with it better then.

Zverev: So I say, ‘Age doesn’t matter.’ Pete Sampras triumphed at the US Open at 19, Nadal did the same at the French Open. Both have amassed a ton of success and didn’t give the impression that they struggled with their early titles. In my opinion, it’s a question of personality, how you deal with it, it’s very individual – whether you’re 20 or 30 years old.

At the US Open we are experiencing a premiere. For the first time, the controversial coaching will be allowed at a Grand Slam event. A good idea?

Zverev: IM not sure. Coaching is a gray area and has always been part of the game, albeit hidden. I can only think of one player who acted autonomously and without a sign from the coach on the pitch: Roger Federer. Otherwise, every professional gets hand signals or signals or even a call. With the decision of the ATP to at least allow coaching on a test basis, this has now been legalized. It is not yet possible to say whether this is a positive innovation.

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