“Extremely happy”: Zverev fights in round two
Alexander Zverev is about to end at the start of the Australian Open, but is the first German professional to fight his way into the second round. A feasible task awaits there – as long as his foot holds.
hardly had Alexander Zverev prevented a bankruptcy at the start of his Grand Slam comeback after a feat of strength, he let his feelings run free in a primal scream lasting seconds. Relief, joy and probably a little frustration – the most diverse emotions had to come out at this moment.
“I’m extremely happy, I’ve missed that in the last seven months,” said the tennis Olympic champion immediately after his hard-fought opening win at the Australian Open: “No matter what comes next: The tournament is already a success for me.”
After the long period of suffering because of his serious foot injury in the French Open semifinals, victory in the first round was in Melbourne against the rebellious qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas from Peru for Zverev an enormously important step back to old strength. “I’m very happy, that was my first win after the injury,” said the Hamburger after the 4: 6, 6: 1, 5: 7, 7: 6 (7: 3) and 6: 4 with many ups and downs in the four-hour match.
Zverev was the first German player to master the opening hurdle at this year’s hard court tournament, seven professionals before him had failed. In the second round on Thursday he meets the French Laurent Lokoli or the American Michael Mmoh. Here, too, Zverev could have been worse, because the world number 50 said on Tuesday. David Goffin from Belgium fell ill at short notice. For him, Mmoh moved up as a lucky loser from the qualification. In any case, a feasible task awaits.
Still deficits in fitness
But Zverev doesn’t know how he will cope with the five-set match. “I’m not where I was in terms of fitness yet, but I might surprise myself,” said the 2020 Australian Open semi-finalist Eurosport. Physically, however, he feels much better than during his two defeats around the turn of the year at the United Cup in Sydney: “After two rallies I felt dead.” He now has to regenerate and, above all, “get a grip on his foot”.
Zverev emphasized that he didn’t cause any problems at the start of his favorite tournament: “My foot is healthy.” This fact and the win would give Zverev “more self-confidence”, believes Eurosport expert Boris Becker: “That’s the most important message. The opponent doesn’t matter at the moment. He’s his own biggest opponent due to the long injury break.”
Zverev was lucky that his opener took place in the covered and air-conditioned Margaret Court Arena. Play on the outdoor courts was interrupted for around three hours because the official “heat stress scale” had reached the highest level. Temperatures of over 35 degrees were measured at Melbourne Park. Heavy rain set in later in the evening – the game was stopped again.
Defeat for Struff
In between, Jan-Lennard Struff was able to end the match, the 32-year-old lost to the American Tommy Paul 1: 6, 6: 7 (6: 8) and 2: 6. The first round games of Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria and Laura Siegemund, on the other hand, were further delayed.
Zverev initially noticed the lack of competition practice. Already in the first set, the serve caused problems, the forehand was too wide and the footwork left a lot to be desired. In between, he put his hand on his hip and looked desperately in the direction of his box. Among other things, friend Sophia Thomalla was sitting there, and basketball icon Dirk Nowitzki was also watching in the stands.
The Peruvian clay court specialist varillas Played carefree and converted his second set ball with a cheeky stop. But immediately afterwards, Zverev flipped the switch. He opened the second round with three aces in a row, after the first break he showed the winning fist and shouted “Come on!”.
Zverev was also ahead in the third set – but then mistakes crept in again, he had to give up his own serve three times and thus also the set. After that, Zverev was in demand as a fighter – and he accepted this task brilliantly.