New York (AP) – Alexander Zverev scolded and punched his bat on the floor. He received a warning and a little later for cursing even a point deduction.
Exactly one year ago, the Hamburg-born player failed in the last sixteen at the US Open after winning the first set against the Argentinian Diego Schwartzman after several outbursts of anger. When the best German tennis professional this year in the quarter-finals against the Croatian Borna Coric lost the first set after a desolate performance 1: 6, when he complained to the chair referee about a wrong decision when Coric left the court for what felt like the 27th time, to change his clothes – an outburst of anger would not have surprised anyone.
Zverev, however, stayed as calm as if he had taken a vow of silence for this unfamiliar Corona-US Open 2020. His playground equipment remained intact, and there weren’t any spectators to mess with. “It was very dry, very grown up. There was enough reason today to hack a racket or shout or let your shoulders hang. But that’s exactly what he didn’t do,” said three-time Wimbledon winner Boris Becker in his role as Expert from the TV channel Eurosport.
This is exactly one of the reasons that Zverev has now made it into the ranks of the top four in New York as the first German tennis player since Boris Becker a quarter of a century ago. With a bit of cramp and a lot more struggle than class, the 23-year-old wrestled Coric, seeded at number 27, in 3:25 hours with 1: 6, 7: 6 (7: 5), 7: 6 (7: 1 ), 6: 3 down.
As at the Australian Open at the beginning of the year and before the month-long break due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zverev is now in the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament again – and is the clear favorite against the Spaniard Pablo Carreño-Busta there on Friday. “I’m in the semi-finals, but I think I can still improve a few things and that gives me confidence. I definitely don’t want to stop here,” said the world number seven.
Should he not stop against the 29-year-old from Gijon, Zverev would be the first German US Open finalist since Michael Stich in 1994. A year later, Becker made it to the semi-finals, and so far the last German champion in New York was in 1989. That this year after the disqualification of world number one and top favorite Novak Djokovic and the not-at-all appearance of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the prospect for Zverev of his premiere title at a Grand Slam is greater than ever before, of course means opportunity and pressure in equal measure.
“We will have a new Grand Slam champion. That is the only thing we know for sure,” said Zverev as he spoke into the press conference cameras with mouth and nose protection. Seven months ago he reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in Melbourne and lost to the Austrian Dominic Thiem.
Turbulent months followed with the interruption of the season, the now extensively debated Adria Tour including suboptimal behavior in the midst of the corona crisis, an interrupted press conference at the show tournament in Nice, the corona infection of his father or the commitment of David Ferrer as coach.
But unlike in the past of his still young career, Zverev now manages to focus on the essentials right on time for the highlights of his tennis life. “I have more experience, maybe I’m a bit calmer in the Grand Slams than in the past. I often wanted it too badly,” said Zverev. The fact that he played spooky tennis against Coric at times and still won the match is a character trait of a champion. Or, as Boris Becker put it after a live broadcast with Zverev: “I call that the maturity test.”
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