In the alleys of Roland-Garros, very clever the one who had seen it coming before the kick-off of this fortnight. Camped in the place of world number three for some time – 2017 precisely -, Alexander Zverev could sit on the world throne, Sunday, June 5. For this, the equation is “simple” on paper for the German: win the first Grand Slam of his career, Porte d’Auteuil.
Before potentially doing a double blow, he will first have to dislodge, on Friday in the semi-finals, the host, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic’s scorer.
Tuesday, in the quarter-finals, the 25-year-old tamed the ardor of the young impudent Carlos Alcaraz, 6th in the world. Announced as one of the favorites after a thunderous start to the season, the 19-year-old Spaniard suddenly turned his age, caught up in the event, the emotion and his lack of experience.
“I told him at net that he was going to win this tournament a lot of times, not just one. I hope I can win it, before he starts beating us all and we don’t have a chance,” joked (only halfway) Zverev, who had lost his eleven games against players of the top 10 in Grand Slams so far.
His cry of rage at the end of the match, almost a roar, showed immense relief coupled with pride. That of having, finally, been able to hold its rank and honor an appointment (with a capital letter) in Grand Slam.
Serial disappointments in Grand Slam
Since the time we see his tall silhouette (1.98 m) gravitating, we almost forget that Alexander Zverev, who turned professional in 2013, is “only” 25 years old. The double winner of the Masters (2018, 2021) – which brings together the eight best players of the season at the end of the year – has been dreaming of winning the Grail for a few years now.
But whether in Melbourne, New York, London or during the meeting at Porte d’Auteuil, he has so far stalled. First physical: unable to keep pace in five sets, not so long ago. Then, mentally: “At the start of my career, I had a lot of trouble with the Grand Slams, he admitted at the start of the fortnight. I hope I can continue to stay stable in the future. »
Finalist at the US Open in 2020 against Dominic Thiem, he had served for the match before leaving the courtesy to the Austrian, who lifted his first Grand Slam trophy in his place. Semi-finalist in Paris in 2021, beaten by the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, the reigning Olympic champion has lost enough time for his taste. “I’m not 20 anymore, nor 21, I’ve said that many times before. I’m at the point where I want to win and where I’m also supposed to win, “he insisted on Tuesday after his victory over Carlos Alcaraz (6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6) .
Against the Spaniard, who had inflicted a correction on him in Madrid three weeks ago, the German took his revenge, with style. Three hours of fierce battle during which he played the metronomes on serve and backhand, his two main weapons. But it is probably not so much in the game as in his patience and the management of his nerves that he impressed the most.
“I knew the game would be long and very physical. I shouldn’t show my emotions too much, because it drains your energy. I had to stay calm the whole game, even though I missed chances in the third [set], which I lost by the way. »
While the public leaned more towards Carlos Alcaraz, Alexander Zverev did not move an eyelash. Nor spent his nerves on the slightest racket, his favorite whipping boy.
Bloodshed in Acapulco
A few weeks ago, he fell back into his failings, denting an already contrasting image a little more. During the Acapulco tournament (Mexico), the right-hander came out of his hinges after a double match lost in the super tie-break with the Brazilian Marcelo Melo. He hit the referee’s chair three times with his racquet, sat down and then got up to insult the official and give a final blow with his sieve.
Immediately excluded from the tournament, he had to pay a fine of 40,000 dollars (35,600 euros), before being given a two-month suspended suspension, plus an additional 25,000 dollars fine by the ATP. “The fine and suspension are suspensive, provided that, during a probationary period ending on February 22, 2023 [one year after the incident], the player does not commit any other breach of the disciplinary code,” wrote in its press release the body which manages the interests of men’s tennis, rather magnanimous in view of this bloodshed.
The player then “begged forgiveness” in a post on his Instagram account, claiming to have “privately apologized to the chair umpire” after his “unacceptable” outburst. A few days ago, at Roland-Garros, the world number three spoke for the first time about the difficulties he faces outside the courts. “Some players talk about it often and more openly. I don’t like to do that. But I struggled a lot this year. I went through a lot of difficulties, I was not very happy, I think I was quite close to depression at times,” he expressed.
Even in a press conference, an exercise he hated for a long time, the German showed a wisdom that we did not know him until then.