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2 COINS IN THE ROMAN FOUNTAIN

Saqib Ali

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Matt Zemek

When we discuss tennis or any other sport, we might often feel the need to say that an athlete or team almost won. This particularly refers to underdogs who are playing with house money and have nothing to lose. They can be free and not suffer consequences if they fall short. “Almost winning” feels like an achievement in itself, and commentators don’t disagree with that notion.

What does it mean to play with “house money,” though — to have a coin you can throw in a fountain? Does it refer to ANY underdog in ANY circumstance, or is it more particular than that? I am not going to insist that there is only one legitimate answer, but I WILL indeed insist that one answer is a lot more convincing to me than others.

Having “house money” — being in a situation free of negative consequences — could reasonably be viewed as a circumstance belonging to any underdog. However, I don’t think it should be seen in that light.

The two showcase ATP quarterfinals on Friday in Rome fit neatly into my conception of what it does — and doesn’t — mean to play with house money.

It is true that Fabio Fognini and Kei Nishikori were not expected to win their respective quarterfinals against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. It is also true that Fognini and Nishikori exist on very different planes of achievement and reputation. They also own different reasons for not achieving at higher levels in their careers — Fognini being petulant and unwilling to battle, Nishikori being quite able to battle but falling victim to injury and losing small amounts of critical points in important matches. In so many ways, Fog and Kei are different tennis creatures, but they do share two basic similarities, no matter how different the underlying REASONS for those similarities are:

1) They have both achieved less than their talents would suggest they should have achieved by now. Where one sets the bar is up for debate, but they have both left some money on the table.

2) Fog and Kei — in order to achieve at a higher level — have to go through the elite players on tour in big moments. A Masters quarterfinal is not as big as a major quarterfinal, but it still rates as a comparatively important, a potential gateway to a Masters title, which neither man has achieved. Fognini has not even reached a single Masters final.

Heading into Friday, the Fognini-Nadal and Nishikori-Djokovic head-to-heads were remarkably similar in several ways. The win differentials were significant even though a lot of the matches between the players were close. Nadal has been pushed hard several times by Fognini on clay in recent years, and a similar story has unfolded between Kei and Nole, especially in Rome, where Friday’s quarterfinal was contested.

More similarities: Fognini and Nishikori scored their biggest wins over Nadal and Djokovic, respectively, at the U.S. Open. Fognini took advantage of Nadal’s 2015 nadir, while Nishikori springboarded to his only major final by beating Nole in New York four years ago. Yet, those huge wins are conspicuous as aberrations, not as reflecting larger trends. Both men, Fog and Kei, have profoundly struggled to win the handful of points they need to beat Nadal and Djokovic in other big tournaments. Djokovic entered Friday 7-0 against Nishikori at Masters events, Nadal 5-0 against Fognini.

Yes, Fog and Kei were underdogs, but for men who have labored in the vineyard of tennis for many years and are trying to achieve specific breakthroughs, not being expected to win isn’t necessarily an example of being free from pressure or consequence. If anything, the knowledge of having fallen short (especially for Fognini) or the knowledge of having been injured so many times when on the cusp of doing something special (Nishikori) can and do weigh on athletes until they cross those thresholds for the first time.

For a young pup such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, or for an older journeyman such as Dusan Lajovic, there truly isn’t a large amount of pressure to do well. Tsitsipas has ample time to develop and learn about life on tour. Lajovic does not possess the prodigious talent of his peers; he has done well to go as far as he has, whereas Fog’s and Kei’s resumes feel like disappointments by comparison.

That is the essential detail at the heart of “house money” and the freedom from pressure it offers: Players might be underdogs, but if there is a gnawing sense that they haven’t fulfilled various reachable aspirations, there is no house money, only the burden to do better.

That burden was real in Friday’s Roman quarters, where men other than Fognini and Nishikori felt at home.

Anyone can win — and lose — one set in a match. To go back to the beginning of this article, sometimes it is written that an athlete “almost won,” but for Fognini and Nishikori, that is not a happy or positive statement. It merely confers a haunting subtext of “what might have been” upon an athlete starving for a Masters title and a much higher Roland Garros seed or position. Conversely, those of us who are sportswriters or commentators rarely write that an athlete “almost lost.” If the athlete wins, s/he accomplished the objective. Very little weight is assigned to the reality of coming close to a defeat. Almost all of the emphasis (properly) belongs with the fact that the athlete solved a problem and found a way through a thorny thicket.

These two sides of the coin were abundantly evident in Fognini-Nadal and Djokovic-Nishikori.

Anyone can win one set, but after winning first sets, Fognini and Nishikori promptly let down their guard in set two. While Nishikori put up a much better fight and played a much better and more resilient match than Fognini, it remains that both players — against opponents who have tormented them many times — couldn’t win the proverbial handful of points needed to change the conversation and write a different story. Yes, whereas Fognini faded, Nishikori played a lot of sublime tennis in the third set against Djokovic. On many levels, these were different matches from men who have accordingly produced at different levels in their careers. Broadly viewed, Nishikori’s career is a shimmering diamond of nobility compared to what Fognini has produced — all true.

Narrowly viewed, however, it meant EVERYTHING that Djokovic was on the other side of the net for Nishikori. Kei struggles so persistently to win The One Really Big Point against Nole, and that reality maintained rent-free living space inside Kei’s cranium on Friday.

Why mention this? Why go in this direction? Simple: A lot of people very reasonably questioned Djokovic’s ability to win a third set, something he had yet to do in 2018 before this match. Trusting Djokovic to get the job done might have seemed, on its face, to ignore recent history, as was the case in Indian Wells against Taro Daniel or against Martin Klizan in Barcelona. Yet, the act of trusting Djokovic in this match did not occur in a vacuum; it was more a matter of considering the opponent Djokovic was facing.

Djokovic-Nishikori (Nadal-Fognini on a similar level) is an example of how “muscle memory” — or just memory in general, without the muscle — figures prominently in shaping the battle. It’s not as though the underdog can’t play really well and push the favorite. Kei and Fog often do make Nole and Rafa work very hard for match victories. Yet, “muscle memory” — the realization of having done (or not done) something many times in the past — is very hard to shake for either player. Djokovic and Nadal use this to their advantage, while it is a burden for Nishikori and Fognini.

The key word in that last sentence: “burden,” because it shows the absence of house money. This is not a coin one can afford to throw in the fountain.

*

Image taken from zimbio.com

 

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Adriano Panatta Paired Panache With Persistence

Matt Zemek

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Susan Mullane - USA TODAY Sports

Saqib Ali, my partner and co-manager at Tennis With An Accent, recently had Robin Soderling on his podcast — the permalink to that episode can be found here.

Roughly one-third of a century before Soderling, there was an even better version of him in men’s tennis, at least if we are talking strictly about on-court results and significant titles.

Soderling carved out a career rich in accomplishments and historic match victories. That career was cut short by health problems, but when Soderling played, he reached a considerable height. He didn’t become an iconic player, but his story will be more than a tiny footnote in his era, 50 years from now.

Younger generations of tennis fans are firmly aware of Soderling’s place in the history of the sport. In the 1970s, Adriano Panatta forged a very similar level of standing in men’s tennis.

We know that Soderling is one of only two men to ever beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. Soderling also stopped Roger Federer’s legendary streak of 23 straight major-tournament semifinals reached with his win in 2010, one year after the earth-shaking upset of Nadal.

Panatta can boast of accomplishments which match the Soderling double in Paris: Panatta was the only man to beat Bjorn Borg at the French Open, and much as Soderling scored his two most historic wins in Paris, Panatta did as well. He beat Borg twice.

Panatta, though, took a few extra steps that Soderling wasn’t able to manage. Panatta won Roland Garros after his second win over Borg in 1976. In that same year, Panatta carried Italy to its first and still only Davis Cup championship. Panatta won three points in the Italians’ 4-1 win over Chile in the Davis Cup Final.

Panatta — in addition to his conquests of Borg, his major title at the French, and his Davis Cup triumph — played in one of the most memorable matches in U.S. Open history.

In 1978, the first year of the tournament’s existence on hardcourts at the current USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows (after decades on the grass and then Har-Tru green clay courts of Forest Hills), Panatta engaged Jimmy Connors in a riveting five-set duel. In the 12th game of the fifth set — in the one major tournament which used a fifth-set tiebreaker at the time — Panatta could only watch as Connors hit one of the most remarkable shots in tennis history.

The shot was incredible on its own merits, but the fact that Connors won the match with that shot and then captured the U.S. Open title in 1978 makes the shot one of the most significant in the Open Era. 

Panatta’s quality shines through not only in that match, but in the fact that this elite clay-court player was able to test Connors on U.S. Open hardcourts and make the Wimbledon quarterfinals. He struggled on grass but did not allow his struggles to permanently handcuff him on that surface. He displayed an ability to adjust to different circumstances and handle the pressure of competition, allowing his talent to emerge in full flower.

Panatta is, in many ways, the embodiment of what a modern-day Italian talent — Fabio Fognini — always had the ability to be, but has never managed to become.

Adriano Panatta is one of several players from the 1970s who will not be remembered by the global community of tennis fans the same way the giants of the period will continue to be. No, Panatta won’t be spoken of in the same breath as Connors and Borg and McEnroe, much as Soderling lives in the shadows of today’s Big 3 plus Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

Nevertheless, like Soderling, Panatta’s best moments ripple through the pages of time. He is a player — with several contemporaries from the 1970s — whose accomplishments and enduring quality should not be forgotten.

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Marin Cilic Knows The Sunshine As Well As The Shadow

Matt Zemek

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Danielle Parhizkaran - USA TODAY SPORTS

It is not easy to concisely summarize many athletes’ careers — not when those careers defy a neat and tidy form of categorization.

What does one say about Gilles Simon, so dogged and relentless yet prone to lapses in concentration? What does one say about Marius Copil, so clearly talented yet only beginning to (potentially) find his range and rhythm on a sustained basis as a professional?

Even the Big 3 are not easy to process — not in relationship to each other. Alone, their stories might be able to be digested and explained with great clarity, but in connection to their two great rivals, each man in that trio becomes a much more layered mystery. If the Big 3 were easy to define as a group, fans would not debate their levels of greatness to the extent they do.

At various tiers of men’s tennis, making sense of a career is not simple.

Of any prominent ATP career this century, few are harder to grasp than Marin Cilic, the king of complexity.

I hasten to say at the outset: Complexity is not bad. Complexity is part of life. Complexity invites us to not settle for the easy conclusion if the reality of a situation demands a more layered assessment.

So it is with Cilic, who helped Croatia win a Davis Cup for the first time in 2018, culminating in his two-point tie on the opponent’s soil against France. As I wrote on Sunday — and as I always stress with Davis Cup — this is not something to check off on a laundry list, a “to-do item” one coldly eliminates in a businesslike manner. This is a moment of profound national meaning for Croatia, especially since it was the last Davis Cup, and even more particularly because earlier in 2018, France had defeated Croatia in the World Cup Final. It meant a lot to the whole Croatian team to win the global championship in another sport. The fact that France happened to be the last obstacle was a bonus — for Cilic, and Borna Coric, and everyone else.

Yet, while this is a team competition, let’s not pretend that of the many dramatis personae in Lille, France, Cilic stood above them. His gut-wrenching loss to Juan Martin del Potro in the 2016 Davis Cup Final against Argentina was supremely shattering. Carrying that scar isn’t easy to do for athletes. We can see, in the second half of Cilic’s 2018 season, a lingering inability to straightforwardly finish sets and matches. “Is he going to blow it again?” is not a rare or infrequent question raised during many Cilic matches.

Yet, for all the questions Cilic elicits when he fails to make the ATP Finals semifinal round (zero appearances in four attempts), or fails to go deeper in a Masters 1000 than he could or should, this man just keeps coming back with notable resilience.

For much of the rest of the world, American individualism is a very ugly thing — not on a conceptual level (individualism can and does represent personal striving to break free of repression or groupthink), but on an applied level. No one needs to wonder which American person represents the excesses of individualism more than any other.

Tennis, however — even in a team concept — is an individual sport. (You might roll your eyes and groan when you read this, but, for the 9,734th time, the American sport of baseball is so much like tennis in this way: Baseball is a team sport defined by individual confrontations and performances. One pitcher goes up against one hitter.) Even with Davis Cup teammates cheering you on and a coach at courtside offering advice on sitdowns, the player has to go out and execute the game plan.

Few American artists are more associated with individualism than Frank Sinatra, who dominated the nation’s cultural consciousness during the decades-long prime of his career. You could ask, “Why select Sinatra out of various other entertainers or singers as an emblem of American individualism?” The answer: Sinatra’s life on and off stage was equally bold, consumed by a runaway appetite for success and pleasure. That doesn’t make him one of a kind, but Sinatra represented that way of being as well as any prominent American public figure in the 20th century. Moreover, unlike Elvis Presley — who exists on the same plane of global fame and American individualism — Sinatra also sang songs which were anthems of American individualism.

Purely as a reflection of a cultural ideal, no Elvis song from his own lengthy canon can match Sinatra’s tribute to American individual striving, “My Way,” which concludes with the following lyric:

The record shoowwws…

I took the blooowwws…

And did it myyyyyyyyyyyy waaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy…

This is American individualism, defined.

It is also the story of Marin Cilic. He does keep taking some very significant and high-impact punches, the punches which have caused many other careers to wither and die.

Consider, in the history of tennis, just a few examples of players who absorbed devastating losses and never really recovered from them: Nicole Vaidisova at Wimbledon in 2007 against Ana Ivanovic. Marcelo Rios to Dominik Hrbaty at the 1999 French Open. David Nalbandian in the 2006 Australian Open against Marcos Baghdatis.

So many athletes in various sports never recover from a major psychic blow. We’re only human, after all. We are not gods or monsters.

Cilic? He takes some very big, fat roundhouse punches to the jaw… but undeterred, he finds ways to keep coming back in a meaningful way. He has, to be very clear, redefined his career such that he won’t merely be remembered as “The guy who caught fire for one week at the 2014 U.S. Open, muddling through week one but then torching the field in week two with untouchably great tennis.”

No, he has transcended that narrow categorization and its accordingly limited narrative arc.

Cilic is a lot more than that.

The complexity of his career is not a bad thing. If anything, it is a virtue… because if his career had been easy to categorize, the negative probably would have outweighed the positive.

I don’t think you can make that claim about Cilic — not now. Not at the end of 2018.

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Zverev Roundtable — Tennis With A German Accent

Tennis Accent Staff

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Geoff Burke -- USA TODAY Sports

German translation of our Sascha Zverev roundtable by @daflurl:

Runder Tisch – Wird Sascha Zverev 2019 ein Major gewinnen?

JANE VOIGT — @downthetee

Die Grand Slam Zukunft eines Spielers vorherzusagen gleicht einem Glücksspiel. Alexander Zverevs Chancen, 2019 ein Grand Slam Turnier zu gewinnen, sind letzten Sonntag bei den Nitto ATP Finals mit seinem 6-4, 6-3 Finalsieg über den 5-fach Sieger und die Nummer 1 der Welt dennoch gestiegen. Dieses Ergebnis gegen den stärksten Spieler auf der Tour seit Wimbledon war nicht unbedingt zu erwarten.

Der 21 Jahre alte Zverev zeigte allerdings mentale Stärke, eine Vorhand mit viel mehr Punch als noch vor einem Monat sowie ein sehr gutes Stellungsspiel näher an der Grundlinie, mit dem er Djokovic wichtige Zeit für seine Schläge und damit den gewohnten Komfort genommen hat.

Der Finalsieg war aber noch nicht alles.  Im Semifinale hat er Roger Federer geschlagen, der das prestigeträchtige ATP Abschlussturnier ganze 6 Mal gewonnen hat. Die direkt aufeinanderfolgenden Siege über diese beiden Größen, die gemeinsam eine Sammlung von 34 Grand Slam Titel vorweisen können, geben dem 1,98m großen Deutschen bestimmt viel Vertrauen in sich selbst, in sein Team und seinen neuen Trainer Ivan Lendl, das es in die kommende Saison mitzunehmen gilt.

Sport Experten sprechen schon seit mehr als einem Jahr davon, dass Zverev ein Grand Slam Turnier gewinnen wird. Mit dem Viertelfinale in Roland Garros ist er diesem Ziel schon etwas näher gekommen, seine Schwäche in 5-Satz Matches hat aber weitere Vorstöße auf dieser Ebene verhindert.

Möglicherweise war Lendl derjenige in seinem Team, der ihm nahegelegt hat, näher an der Grundlinie zu stehen. Möglicherweise war er es, der ihm geraten hat, auf sich zu vertrauen,  ans Netz zu kommen und Punkte schneller abzuschließen.

Sollte das der Fall gewesen sein und Zverev diese Ratschläge weiterhin befolgen, dann wird er auch bald auf Grand Slam Ebene zur Spitze gehören.

ANDREW BURTON – @burtonad

Zverev war erst 20, da wurde schon so viel von ihm erwartet. Heuer konnte er sich zum 2. Mal für das Turnier der 8 besten Spielern qualifizieren; nun hat er den Publikumsliebling im Semifinale und den aktuell Besten Spieler (gegen den er schon in der Gruppenphase gespielt hat) im Finale direkt hintereinander geschlagen. Die ATP hat einen neuen, leuchtenden Stern. Aber wird sein Aufstieg nächstes Jahr weitergehen?

Wäre nächstes Jahr 2004, wäre die Antwort JA.

Mit seinen Sieg 2003 in Houston hat Roger Federer einen 4-jährigen Erfolgslauf gestartet, in dem er 11 Majors, 3 davon im Jahr 2004, gewonnen hat. Schon 2005 wurde Federer als möglicher „Bester aller Zeiten“ Kandidat gehandelt. Obwohl er seinen ersten Majortitel schon früher im Jahr 2003 (in Wimbledon) gewonnen hat, war er in Houston nicht die Hauptattraktion. Andre Agassi und Andy Roddick (die 2003 auch Majortitel gewonnen haben) gehörten die Herzen des texanischen Publikums und Turnierpromotor, Mattress Mac“ Jim McIngvale.

McIngvale hat Federer während der Siegerehrung fast ignoriert, da er sich in seinem Stolz verletzt fühlte weil sich der junge Schweizer in Interviews negativ zu den Bedingungen des Platzes geäußert hatte. Im November 2004 als Federer zweifellos der größte Star im Herrentennis war, versöhnten sich die beiden. McIngvale lud Federer und den ehemaligen Präsidenten George Bush sowie First Lady Barbara Bush zu einem Mittagessen in seinen Club. (der aus Houston stammende Bush war ein ehemaliger Topspieler in seinen jüngeren Jahren).

Steht diese Zukunft auch Sascha Zverev bevor? Möglicherweise noch nicht. Im Gegensatz zu Federer hat Zverev noch kein Major gewonnen: Sein bestes Resultat ist nur ein Viertelfinale in Roland Garros im heurigen Jahr. Zverev spielte heuer eine ordentliche Saison, die er als Nummer 4 im Ranking beendete: Abgesehen vom Titel in London hat er das M-1000 in Madrid, das 500er Turnier in Washington und das 250er in München gewonnen. Zudem stand er im Finale der beiden M-1000 Turniere in Miami und Rom. Seine Bilanz war 58-19: Federers Bilanz 2003 war 78-17.

Zverevs Ausgangslage ist klar. Er ist ein klassischer Topspieler der späten 2010er Jahre. Mit 1,98m ist er genauso groß wie Juan Martin del Potro, bewegt sich aber deutlich besser als der Argentinier. Bei seinem Sieg am Samstag gegen Federer sagte ich, dass er mich an eine verbesserte Version von Tomas Berdych erinnert. Mit 21 Jahren ist er weit und breit der kompletteste aller jungen Spieler auf der Tour, der große Titel vor sich hat. Mit seinem Sieg am Sonntag ist er der erst 4. Spieler nach Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal und David Nalbandian, der Federer und Djokovic im Semifinale und Finale des gleichen Turnieres geschlagen hat.

Die Gegenargumente (für 2019) liegen jedoch auch auf der Hand. Das 7-Spiele Format bei den Majors hat er bis jetzt noch nicht optimal gemeistert. Dabei gilt es, in den frühen Runden nur so viel zu investieren um die 2. Woche mit einem fast vollen körperlichen und mentalen Akku zu erreichen. Auf dem Weg ins Viertelfinale von Paris musste er in den 3 vorhergehenden Runden jeweils einen 2 zu 1 Satzrückstand aufholen, wodurch er Dominic Thiem nichts mehr entgegenzusetzen hatte. Anfangs der Woche in London habe ich geschrieben, dass Zverev imstande ist, aggressiv zu spielen aber gerne in konservatives Spiel verfällt. Im Montreal Finale 2017 hat er gegen Federer von Anfang an aggressiv gespielt: Das würde ich gerne öfter von ihm sehen.

Wird er 2019 ein Grand Slam Turnier gewinnen? Von mir kommt ein klares „vielleicht“: um genauer zu sein würde ich sagen, dass die Wahrscheinlichkeit in etwa bei 35% liegt.

Heutzutage stellt sich Erfolg erst später ein als noch in den 2000er oder den 1990er Jahren. Vielleicht ist 21 das neue 18 oder 19. Und vielleicht steht 2019, 2020, 2021 und 2022 – und darüber hinaus – ganz im Zeichen von Sascha Zverev.

MERT ERTUNGA – @MertovsTDesk

Ich hasse es der weniger Enthusiastische hier zu sein, aber ein Major zu gewinnen – 5-Satz Matches zu spielen – ist eine ganz andere Herausforderung als sie Zverev in der O2 Arena zu überstehen hatte. Zudem war die Herausforderung in der O2 Arena eine Premiere für ihn. Infolge eines Erfolgslaufes wie ihn Sascha gerade in London hatte, neigen wird dazu zu vergessen, wie jung und nach wie vor neu er auf der Tour ist. Ich würde seine Chancen, 2019 ein Major zu gewinnen, deutlich besser einschätzen wenn er in den letzten zwei Jahren mehr als nur ein Viertelfinale gewonnen hätte bzw. noch weiter gekommen wäre.

Abgesehen davon, gibt es keinen Grund warum es nächstes Jahr nicht passieren könnte. Jedoch müsste er sich dafür in der ersten Jahreshälfte stetig weiterentwickeln und verletzungsfrei bleiben. Ehrlicherweise glaube ich aus den oben angeführten Gründen nicht, dass es schon bei den Australien Open soweit ist. Ich nehme aber an, dass er dennoch ein gutes Turnier in Melbourne spielt und danach können wir unsere Aufmerksamkeit den nächsten 3 Majors widmen. Roland Garros wird extrem schwer zu gewinnen sein wenn Novak Djokovic und Rafael Nadal gesund und in Form sind.

In Wimbledon könnte seine erste gute Chance sein, den Titel zu gewinnen, abhängig davon wer in welcher Form dabei ist. Denn dann sind 6 Monate der Saison vergangen und Sascha könnte durch gute Ergebnisse viel Selbstvertrauen aufgebaut haben. Mit seinem starken Aufschlag und der Fähigkeit den Ball zu beschleunigen, erscheinen mir Wimbledon und die U.S. Open als die beiden besten Möglichkeiten für einen Titel. Allerdings ist meine Definition von „Möglichkeit“ in diesem Zusammenhang eher ein kleiner Hoffnungsschimmer. Ich sage nicht nein, aber empfehle vorsichtigen Enthusiasmus.

MATT ZEMEK – @mzemek

Sascha Zverev wird ein Major gewinnen…aber nicht nächstes Jahr.

Als Zverev Novak Djokovic im Finale abfertigte – dem Rom Finale 2017 – glaubte  ich fest daran, dass er eines Tages eine der prestigeträchtigsten Trophäen im Tennis in die Höhe stemmen wird. Zverev war an diesem Tag eiskalt und unbeeindruckt. Auch wenn Djokovic nicht 100 prozentig fit war, wie wir im Nachhinein erfahren haben, hat Zverev diese schwierige Aufgabe mit einer unglaublichen Gelassenheit und Klarheit bewältigt. Als ich gesehen habe, wie er im Titelmatch der ATP Finals die langen Ballwechsel gegen Djokovic kontrolliert hat, erinnerte ich mich wieder daran.

Dieser Spieler wird es schaffen. Er wird eines der 4 wichtigsten Turniere im Tennis gewinnen. Die Frage ist nicht OB, sondern WANN.

Ich glaube aber nicht, dass es schon 2019 soweit sein wird.

Rafael Nadal, sofern er für die Sandsaison fit ist, wird Zverev in Roland Garros in die Schranken weisen. Djokovic ist der klare Favorit bei den Australien Open, wo er nach 2018 wieder gesund dabei ist. Roger Federer wird in Wimbledon angreifen, wo vermutlich aber auch Djokovic der Favorit ist.

Ich glaube wenn 2019 alles gut läuft für Zverev, sind die U.S. Open seine beste Chance. Wenn die „Big 3“ viel gespielt und viele Turniere gewonnen haben, könnte Zverev zur Stelle sein und einen Vorteil aus deren Müdigkeit ziehen… aber ich bezweifle es.

In Zverevs einzigem Grand Slam Viertelfinale letztes Jahr war sein Akku leer, da der Aufwand dieses eine Major Viertelfinale zu erreichen enorm war. Er hat so viel Energie verbraucht, sich durch 5-Satz Matches zu kämpfen, dass er seine Chancen das Turnier zu gewinnen vergeben hat.

Zverev ist die ATP Finals richtig angegangen. So muss er auch bei den Majors spielen… aber bei Grand Slam Turnieren so zu spielen ist etwas womit er nicht vertraut ist. Die Anpassung an ein Turnier stellt ein Puzzle dar, das er lösen muss, und das kostet Zeit – möglicherweise mehr Zeit als ein Jahr.

Was wäre ein gutes Grand Slam Jahr 2019 für Zverev? Ich glaube nicht, dass er unbedingt eines gewinnen muss, er muss nur konstant stark spielen und die Weichen für den nächsten Sprung 2020 stellen.

Zwei Viertelfinali und zwei Semifinali bei den Grand Slams 2019 wäre gut – ein Finale wäre ideal, aber nicht unbedingt notwendig. Dann wird er mit dem Wissen, bereit für große Titel zu sein, in die Saison 2020 gehen. In 2019 muss er nicht sämtliche Zweifel ausräumen, er muss nur seine Grand Slam Blockade überwinden, nicht konstant über 2 Wochen bei den großen Turniere spielen zu können.

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