Nine months since that had happened to him! By winning Wednesday (7-5, 6-4 in 1h18) in the second round of the ATP 500 in Dubai against the Australian Christopher O’Connell (92nd ATP), the German Alexander Zverev did not succeed “perf” of his life but he has just won two matches in a row for the first time since his success in the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros 2022 against Carlos Alcaraz (6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7)).
Still number two in the world only six months ago, Zverev, 25, never really took advantage of this status since it was at the end of this Roland-Garros tournament that he found himself in the highest ranking. of his career, and in the worst shape of his life.
Forced to use crutches and wear a cast that prevented him from moving, showering or living normally, after his serious injury to the right foot (three torn ankle ligaments), on the Philippe- Chatrier, at 7-6, 6-6 for Rafael Nadal, in the heart of a semi-final of an intensity that drew on the legendary (more than three hours in less than two sets), the German knew how to take his badly in patience.
He complied with all the care protocols imposed on him, respecting the schedule laid down by the doctors, giving up at the last moment on a recovery in September, in the Davis Cup, because the pain was still too strong.
“I guess I still have a long way to go to find myself where I was”
At the Australian Open in January, he came mainly to take information: “I had no expectations, no goals, and it was a good test for me. I played a match in five sets (his 4-6, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4 first-round win over Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas), which allowed me to see where I was physically. »
Beaten in the second round by American Michael Mmoh (6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2), Zverev was lucid leaving Melbourne: “My foot is fine but I’m not as fast as before, I’m not at the physical level of before. I guess I still have a long way to go to find myself where I was. But I’m getting better and better and that’s obviously very positive for me. »
31 straight points on serve
In the opinion of those close to him, during the last Roland-Garros, even if he had come closer to the US Open (final in 2020, lost in five rounds against Dominic Thiem), Zverev had never seemed so ready. to win his first Grand Slam title. Just a matter of time, from now on, the time to find each other completely?
On Wednesday, on Court No. 1 in Dubai, facing the very compact tennis of O’Connell, who came close to beating Medvedev last week in Doha, the German, now 16th at the ATP, in any case demonstrated that he had regained full use of his service, winning 31 points in a row on his commitments, between the middle of the first set and his first match point. 54 minutes without O’Connell scoring anything on the return!
And as Zverev, in addition to his eleven aces, remained solid and patient, biding his time (two ideal breaks, at 5-5 in the first and 4-4 in the second) and sounding his forehand at the best moments, he logically imposed without resorting to any tie-break.
Thursday, in the quarter-finals, Zverev will aim for a third victory in a row, against the Italian Lorenzo Sonego (67th), scorer, him, Wednesday, of world No. 9, Félix Auger-Aliassime (7-6 (4), 6-4).