Return to the Australian Open: Alexander Zverev – hard work against doubts

Status: 01/14/2023 12:05 p.m.

In 2022, he departed surprisingly early as the much-loved title favorite. This year, Alexander Zverev’s expectations are among the australian open much lower in Melbourne after a long injury break. Concentration before you start is hard work.

By Jannik Schneider, Melbourne

Rafael Nadal is a good, perhaps the best, guide in the whole sports world when it comes to the right attitude towards work. Where Mallorca at the gates of Grand Slam– Trained in tournaments, the sweat doesn’t just flow, it flows. And the intensity of the workouts is second to none.

So it makes sense that Zverev, after more than seven months injury-free on the Australian Open facilities, also worked with the Spaniard on putting together tennis’ first highlight of the year. On Saturday (01/14/2023), Zverev completed the second session with Nadal at the facility’s third-largest stadium since arriving in Australia. The hottest day of the week so far, with temperatures up to 38 degrees, the two worked in the afternoon sun. After intense exchanges and exercises, the accent, under the supervision of Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya and his compatriot Sergi Bruguera, who is back in the German team alongside Zverev’s father after the injury, was on return and service repeats. The latter is still one of the main sports yards for Germany’s top tennis player and is one of the reasons why nobody really expects anything from Zverev these days.

Zverev training in Melbourne

Zverev’s wound: The drama of Paris

It’s been more than seven months since Zverev fought at eye level with that same Nadal in the semi-finals of the French Open tore three ligaments in his right ankle. In a split second, not only the long-awaited dream of the first Grand Slam title erupted. Worse still: the return in September when Davis Cup in Hamburg prevented bone edema. Now, four months later, on the other side of the world, Zverev says: “I probably did too much back then to come back and get the new injury.”

A revival of form in Monte Carlo was followed by promising sporting appearances at the politically controversial sporting event in Saudi Arabia – in Dubai he even beat Novak Djokovic. Under the strain of proper tour matches followed at Solid cut in Sydney, however, two clear defeats.

Zverev without pain: ‘Fitness only comes with more time’

Zverev is convinced these days in Melbourne that he is already performing at a higher level than the Olympic city of 2000. The most important thing: Zverev is painlessly ‘Down Under’. “My foot is fine, I’m healthy. My form is not where I want it to be yet. But that only comes with more time on the pitch,” the 25-year-old said in an interview with the sports show. “It’s nice to be back – to be honest. Of course I missed the Tour. Of course I want to be back on the pitch and training and playing with these players. It’s something something you miss as an athlete.”

There was great interest in the returnee on the official media day. TV stations were only allowed to ask three quick questions on the beautiful media terrace on the Arena Rod Laver place. During the official press conference, Zverev previously reported in more detail that his punches felt very good at the start of his comeback attempts.

Zverev: ‘The pace is completely different again’

“But it’s something completely different when you play with the guys here again. The tempo is completely different. You don’t really realize that if you’ve always been there all the time before, how quickly that actually happens in the field.”

Alexander Zverev at the press conference in Melbourne

Zverev has been training up to three or four times a day this week on form over the past few days with well-known faces like Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem, Daniel Altmaier and Nadal. Good phases and world-class shots alternated with hasty actions and simple errors. There were signs of slight improvement in service. While his father watched more, Bruguera intervened almost every minute. The winner of the 1994 and 1995 French Open mainly corrected return and service movements.

Kohlmann encourages patience

What Zverev still lacks for the old top 5 status are the games and the certainty that the things that worked better in the units can also be called up in the game. “After such a long break, it always happens that some things don’t work under the pressure of the match,” Davis Cup captain Michael Kohlmann explained to the Melbourne sports broadcast. Zverev makes a consistently positive impression in the cabin. “He was always a player who moved extremely well. He needs security to approach and slide.”said Kohlmann and, like Zverev himself, also asks for patience.

Zverev no longer thinks about the injury every day. “My thoughts are more on what I can improve on and how to get back in shape, what else I can train on.” It is certainly not in the form of Paris. “In Paris, I could have won Roland-Garros if I could have been number one. But that does not mean that I cannot change that, that it changes after a few matches and that I feel good.”explained Zverev, who met Peruvian qualifier and clay court specialist Juan Pablo Varillas in the first round – a doable lot even in Zverev’s situation.

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