Aryna Sabalenka in Wuhan. Naomi Osaka in Osaka and Beijing. Dominic Thiem in Beijing. John Millman in Tokyo. Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev in Beijing.
The past few weeks of Asian swing tennis have offered a prevalent, pervasive theme: refreshment.
This hasn’t been an Asian swing in which the winners or prominent semifinalists and finalists at ATP Tour and WTA Tour events have come completely off the radar.
This is not Caroline Garcia coming from nowhere in 2017, or Nikoloz Basilashvili surprising the tour last year.
This is an Asian swing in which players who had done something significant in the past 12 months went through a dry period and rediscovered quality tennis. They were beaten down or burdened (maybe both in some cases), but stopped running from defeat and pursued victory with a refreshed mindset.
Tired, unconvincing tennis turned into a reunion with winning solutions and positive play.
Tsitsipas and Zverev are significant parts of this story, as shown by their Beijing semifinal won by Tsitsipas in two close sets.
Many will say that Laver Cup is the source of this refreshment. You can have your own debate with friends on that topic.
Did Laver Cup reignite something within Tsitsipas and Zverev in China? You can wrestle with that question on your own time.
I will merely say this: SOMETHING did happen. SOMETHING did cleanse the palate. SOMETHING allowed these players to reset the dial and put a dreadful summer behind them.
Remember Zverev in early 2018? He was in the midst of a prolonged funk. He arrived in Miami and barely defeated Daniil Medvedev in his first match. He then fought past David Ferrer in another very close contest.
Those matches lit a spark in Zverev. He reached the Miami final and, a month and a half later, made consecutive finals in Munich, Madrid and Rome, winning two of them.
Zverev found refreshment in Miami then. He found refreshment in China, as did Tsitsipas.
Was it Laver Cup? We can speculate all day. What matters is that after tennis seemed like a chore to these two men in the summertime, it became something more pleasant and enjoyable in Beijing.
Work can feel like a burden to any of us… until that moment when we ascribe a more positive meaning and a heightened value to whatever we choose to do with our days.
Never lose sight of that. Zverev and especially Tsitsipas did not… at least not this past week.
We gonna see what they do in Shanghai.
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