Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open: He just wants to be healthy – sport
At 12 o’clock on this Saturday the procedure called “Media Day” began again. It may be surprising at this Australian Open, which is radically marketed, why the string of press conferences with selected players two days before the start of the tournament are not yet provided with a sponsor’s name. The Kids Day, for example, which also took place at the same time on this wonderfully hot summer’s day in Melbourne, is called Kids tennis Day presented by Emirates. But the Media Day is really just: Media Day. Crazy actually.
The first in the main interview room was Australian Alex De Minaur, number 24 in the world, who is very popular in his home country because his style of play and appearance are reminiscent of former fighter and world number one Lleyton Hewitt. “What I ultimately want to achieve in my life is that I get the most out of myself,” said De Minaur in an exemplary manner. A total of a dozen professionals were led into the cinema-like space every quarter and half hour. defending champion Rafael Nadalnow a father for the first time, said, as always, that he goes into the first round with humility, the old low-key.
The Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas raved about how he likes to deal with other cultures, the Japanese one has done it to him at the moment. Last year’s finalist Danielle Collins from the USA also stopped by and said she wasn’t superstitious, but in Melbourne she always went to the same coffee shop. Everyone had their own little story to tell, and commonly the German would be too Alexander Zverev sat in the main press conference room. Not this time. This time he was in Room 2.
It might or might not have happened before that he would have been assigned one of the smaller rooms, which by the way wasn’t a problem either for him or for the reporters. But it was indicative that Zverev had to regroup for the time being. June 3, 2022 had changed his professional life like no other day in his career. He made that clear himself.
Zverev has to line up again in Melbourne after his long break
“In Paris I could have won the French Open and become number one in the world,” said Zverev. As you know, things turned out differently. In a gripping semi-final last year, he caused the Spaniard Rafael Nadal great difficulties, but at the score of 6: 7, 6: 6 he had to give up: he twisted his right foot. Hobbing on crutches, he said goodbye to Court Philippe Chatrier, the diagnosis: tears in three external ligaments in the ankle. Zverev had never suffered such an injury. However, his confidence quickly returned.
In September he had already hoped to have overcome the worst, he wanted to report back to the field at the Davis Cup in Hamburg, but it turned out that he contracted bone edema in his foot during the rehabilitation training. “Of course you want to be on the tour, of course you want to play,” Zverev explained this Saturday and admitted: “I probably did too much and that’s why I got another, new injury.” Once again he had to start a rehabilitation phase, a first short appearance then at the beginning of December at a show tournament in Saudi Arabia, around the turn of the year he played his first official tour matches at the United Cup in Sydney, he lost twice clearly, against the Czech Jiri Lehecka and American Taylor Fritz. “But it is what it is. I’m back now, I feel relatively good health,” said Zverev now. His role as a fatalist was not yet known to him.
In fact, as calm, thoughtful and level-headed as he spoke and sounded, it seemed as if he had changed, which is not surprising given the seriousness of his injury. If he used to courageously commit himself to big goals, he now tried not to name goals that were too big. He is still cautious with forecasts for the time being. Sometimes he said he hoped this and he hoped that, or he suddenly spoke of “man”, although he meant himself. It was as if he, tennis pro Zverev in Melbourne, was talking about the other patient, Zverev from Paris. “If you haven’t played a match for seven months, you won’t come back and play the same tennis,” he continued. “It actually has nothing to do with the injury. For me it’s really the matches. For me it’s more the time on the pitch that I need.”
Elsewhere he said, “Let’s see how the first matches go,” he paused and corrected, “… or the first match.” He also knows that if he plays jerkily like in Sydney, they could Australian Open already end on Tuesday in the first round, even if the qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas from Peru is only number 104 in the world rankings and moved up into the main draw as a lucky loser from the qualification.
Zverev obviously noticed that even at only 25, a return after such an injury doesn’t just happen in a rush. Because even regained health is no guarantee. He has to find his game again. “In the beginning I felt very, very good from the shots on the pitch. But then of course it’s something completely different when you play here with the lads again,” he admitted. “The tempo is completely different. You don’t really realize that when you play with them all the time, how fast everything is happening here.” However, he doesn’t think about the injury “every day”, he thinks more about “what can I improve, how can I get back in shape, what do I still have to train for”.
Yes, Zverev really could have been number one, he narrowly missed this goal several times last season. He is now 13th in the ranking. His wish now in January 2023 in Melbourne? “That I can play here pain-free and healthy and find my way back to my level.” This is how Zverev’s standards have shifted before this Australian Open.