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Laver Cup Roundtable — What’s New After Edition Number 2

Tennis Accent Staff

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Laver Cup via Twitter

QUESTION: What did the second installment of the Laver Cup do to change, affirm, or add to your thoughts about the event after the first installment in 2017?

NOTE: You can find the Tennis With An Accent Laver Cup Podcast here, with Saqib Ali and Matt Zemek. The co-hosts of the podcast, which is produced by RadioInfluence.com, spend roughly 25 minutes discussing ways to improve the event and also generate more transparency from its organizers and backers. They end with a segment on Mikhail Youzhny, who played his last match this past week.

NOTE No. 2: The TWAA Podcast has its first sponsor, Vivid Seats [on Twitter at @VividSeats], which you can use to buy tickets to tennis tournaments and other sports or entertainment events.

Open and use the Vivid Seats app here. We have a deal to offer you through Vivid Seats: Get 10 percent off your first ticket purchase at Vivid Seats by using the promo code INFLUENCE. Our Vivid Seats sponsorship came to TWAA through our partnership with Radio Influence.

Now, to the roundtable…

NICK NEMEROFF — @NNemeroff

My biggest takeaway from the Laver Cup was its representation of the beauty of competition.

There were no points on the line, but with the appropriate competitive environment fostered, the competitive spirits of the world’s best players were ignited.

The level of effort, the intensity and passion from both teams were undeniable. This is an event that, within in its first two years of inception, has been a tremendous success.

Following the event, the two final players who experienced losses, Kevin Anderson and John Isner, were visibly devastated.

Debating whether the Laver Cup is an exhibition or not is, in my opinion, an unproductive use of time.

The event, regardless of how it is defined, means a lot to the players and has produced tremendous tennis and drama over the first two years.

The Laver Cup weekend has immediately become one of my favorite weekends of the entire tennis season.

ANDREW BURTON — @burtonad

The second Laver Cup, concluded Sunday evening in Chicago with a win for Team Europe, was in many respects similar to the first cup held last year in Prague.  Most importantly, for the second year running, it succeeded as a sporting contest.

As in the first event, the players competed hard throughout, belying the “exhibition” description applied to the young competition. Last year Nick Kyrgios had to be consoled by team mates when he lost the final match to Roger Federer after holding a match point: this time around John Isner and Kevin Anderson were the players who looked ashen faced during the trophy ceremony. Isner had failed to convert three match points earlier in the day against Federer, while Anderson looked the sharper and more aggressive player against Sascha Zverev, only to let a 7-5 advantage in the match tiebreak (first to 10) slip away.

As before, Team World faced an uphill task given the team selections, but far outshone their more storied (and older) opponents in sideline energy and captain’s participation. The “Big 3” pairing of Federer and Djokovic was a bit less successful than last year’s Federer-Nadal doubles, but Novak tagging Fed supplied some laughs on Day 1.

As before, the deceptively clever format, with ascending points for match wins, kept the outcome tight until the last two ties went to Europe. The slate grey court worked again, and the energetically partisan crowd played its part.

This time around, the Laver Cup wasn’t a completely unknown quantity — but a year is an eternity in the minds of most tennis journalists and commentators, whose guiding principle is almost invariably “What have you done for me lately?” Many writers seemed surprised by the level of tennis, by the players’ commitment, by the crowd’s fervor, and even their own enjoyment. They were like a spouse dutifully attending a party at their partner’s request, then coming away saying what a great time they had .

We don’t know yet if the Laver Cup will ultimately cement its place in the tennis calendar, but it’s got two successful team events under its belt. Were you not entertained?

BRIANA FOUST — @4TheTennis

The second edition of the Laver Cup showed that tennis can be a must-attend event in the United States once again. Chicago, a city that has not seen professional tennis in 20 years, boasted attendance levels of 34,000 people after the first two days of results, and 93,584 for the three-day weekend across five separate ticketed sessions, an average of 18,717 fans per session in a building whose seating capacity for hockey is 19,717. That is a wonderful sight after seeing smaller tour events leave the Americas for more popular locations around the world.

The level of tennis remained high throughout the weekend, but the doubles matches are what kept my attention the best. Jack Sock was an absolute phenom in doubles and it was a treat to see him outplay everyone on the court, including Roger Federer, in hopes of giving Team World the edge on the scoreboard. If I could change one variable for the third edition next year in Geneva, I would add a fan vote system to help determine the pool of players on both teams to create some variety.

Overall I think Laver Cup was a successful event once again. I would like to see its place in the calendar be reassessed now that Davis Cup and Fed Cup have been restructured. I’m not sure what the shelf life of Federer’s career will have on Laver Cup’s future, but for now he has gotten his fellow players to buy into his concept.

MATT ZEMEK — @mzemek

I wrote a full column on one specific facet of Laver Cup: Being able to matter-of-factly observe the tournament — if you bothered to watch it — and honor the way the players approach the event. Honestly observing the on-court event enables a person to separate the on-court product from the off-court questions one can (and should) legitimately bring to the table.

In this roundtable, I won’t repeat anything I said in the column. I will instead touch on some of the thoughts I offered with Saqib in the podcast linked to at the start of this piece, and add a few more notes which came to mind over the course of the weekend:

— As Andrew Burton said in a private conversation last week, why not have the WTA join Laver Cup?

The WTA has so many good and interesting players who can similarly be divided between Europe and the World. Tennis’s charm is that its biggest events have the two genders together. Why not extend that to Laver Cup and add to the event’s uniqueness? Hopman Cup is a light exhibition played just before a major tournament, the Australian Open. Laver Cup can occupy a more unique space by bringing in the WTA in a joint event. This won’t happen in 2019, but it could in 2020, and those talks should start sooner rather than later.

— With or without the WTA, the scoring format for the event should be modified to more closely follow the Ryder Cup, the event after which the Laver Cup is modeled in a number of fundamental ways.

The escalating point format — one on Friday, two on Saturday, three on Sunday — enhances drama, but in an artificial way. It is clear that organizers want Sunday to be a “live” day for ticket sales and TV ratings. The current point format increases the chances Sunday matters. However, if this event wants to build real stature (which is something that can’t exist just because people want it to be important, or just because media commentators say so), it will have the confidence needed to stand on its own and accept the possibility that Sunday might not be live… or very long.

The Ryder Cup scoring system is such that matches can and do end in ties, with one point halved between players or teams who split holes in four-ball or match-play formats. The Ryder Cup was lopsided in its infancy, but when the weaker side (Europe, playing against the powerful United States) got better, the event exploded into popularity. Laver Cup, which achieved the goal of creating maximum drama in its first two years, can now adjust and focus on creating a format in which fewer people can accuse organizers of trying to “engineer” or “manufacture” drama.

Very simply, have players play two sets and no supertiebreakers. If they split sets, the match is “halved” as in Ryder Cup. Every match is worth one and only one point.

What this means: Matches will be even shorter than they already are, which means that five matches can be packed into one day of play — two day matches, three evening/night matches. If the WTA was brought in, the idea of a five-match order of play would make total sense: one mixed doubles, one men’s doubles, one women’s doubles — with elite doubles players, by the way, not singles players winging it — and then two women’s singles and two men’s singles matches rounding out each day’s card.

— For 2020, an Olympic year, there should be no Laver Cup.

The calendar will be too crowded, for one thing. Second, playing every other year is what the Laver Cup’s long-term strategy should be, even though Tony Godsick told Christopher Clarey of the New York Times that he wants the event to be an annual thing. Playing every other year puts Laver Cup in line with Ryder Cup. Players won’t be overburdened on an annual basis to play this event, and can give themselves to other special tournaments or to the regular tour in the off years.

— If the Laver Cup DOES play in 2020, as I think it probably will, it should go to South America.

The Olympics will be in Tokyo, so Asia gets a big tennis event in 2020. With Europe hosting every other Laver Cup and the United States getting this 2018 event in Chicago, and with Australia having one of the four majors, South America makes complete sense as the continent for the 2020 LC if Godsick insists on playing it every year.

Suggestions: Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; Montevideo, Uruguay; Asuncion, Paraguay.

— So the USTA, not just Tennis Australia, is an investor in Laver Cup. Tell us where the money is going.

Laver Cup organizers should set a healthy example in tennis, at a time when tennis needs more transparency. Obviously, people have a right to make a buck and should make a buck, but if national associations are part of this, there is an added and special obligation to be accountable for these dollars, as is true for the Gerard Pique-Kosmos venture. There needs to be a balance between the serving of public and private interests on a general level, but this need becomes a lot more acute when organizations connected to the major tournaments want to get a piece of the pie.

The Tennis With An Accent staff produces roundtable articles and other articles with group input during the tennis season. Staff articles belong to the TWAA family of writers and contributors, as opposed to any individual commentator. Our staff produces roundtables every week of the tennis season, so that you will always know what the TWAA staff thinks about the important tennis topics of the times.

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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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