Paris (AP) – The mask pulled very low over the face and coughing again and again, Alexander Zverev sat in the press room of the Court Philippe Chatrier and had to talk about his next Grand Slam disappointment.
“I’m completely sick,” said the German number one after his knockout round at the French Open against 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner. “The evening before I had a temperature of 38 degrees, I felt tired after warming up. I shouldn’t have played,” said Zverev after the 3: 6, 3: 6, 6: 4, 3: 6.
Three weeks after his bitter final defeat at the US Open against Austrian Dominic Thiem, Zverev had to process the next disappointment. “It’s annoying because in a Grand Slam you usually want to play your best tennis,” said the 23-year-old. “Unfortunately that was not possible.”
Zverev will have to wait for his first Grand Slam title at least until next year. “I think I’m on the right track. Even if I can certainly improve a few things in my game,” said Zverev, who reached the semi-finals in Melbourne, the finals in New York and the last sixteen in Paris. Wimbledon had been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Zverev does not believe that he could have infected himself with the virus. “We are tested every few days and so far all tests have been negative for me,” said the native of Hamburg. “I don’t have the typical symptoms, I can taste and smell when my nose is clear,” said Zverev. But of course he will be tested again now. “But I tend to think that it’s the weather. And my physio also had a cold and I’ve been with him a lot recently.”
Nevertheless, immediately after Zverev’s statements, there were heated discussions on social media about whether Zverev was even allowed to play in this state and whether he was a danger to his opponent and the other people on the pitch. On the other hand, Sinner was not worried. “He didn’t test positive and we didn’t really get close on the pitch,” said Sinner.
According to the organizers, the last time Zverev was tested was on September 29th and the result was negative. Before the game, the German number one did not inform the tournament doctor about his problems, according to a statement by the French association, about which a journalist reported to the “New York Times”.
This means that only one German is represented among the men at the clay court spectacle in the French capital. Qualifier Daniel Altmaier will face Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in his round of 16 match on Monday. In the women’s category, Laura Siegemund is fighting against the Spaniard Paula Badosa for the quarter-finals. In the women’s competition, which is completely open after many favorite falls, Siegemund can also hope for a coup.
Zverev didn’t look really fit against Sinner from the start. He received an early break to make it 1: 3 and shortly afterwards had the doctor give him medication for his cold. “After every long rally, my chest burned and I had trouble breathing,” said Zverev, describing the situation on the pitch. Out of frustration, Zverev, who had remained remarkably calm in the tournament so far, hammered his bat twice on the floor. After 42 minutes, Sinner got the first set.
Zverev struggled with himself, his cold and the gusty wind. Again and again he looked perplexed at his new coach David Ferrer and his father Alexander Senior in the stands. Overall, the 23-year-old acted far too passively and left the initiative to Sinner. And the shooting star from South Tyrol, for whom many experts predict a great future, loved to take over the command and put Zverev, who is often far too far behind the baseline, under pressure with his powerful basic strokes.
Only in the third set did it briefly look as if Zverev could make one of his remarkable comebacks again. But Sinner kept calm and after 3:01 hours made the surprise perfect. “Jannik Sinner deserved to win today,” said tennis legend Boris Becker as a TV expert at Eurosport. “Overall, Alexander Zverev played a little too passively and was too far behind the baseline.” Sinner will now face twelve-time Paris champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals. The Spaniard outclassed the US qualifier Sebastian Korda 6: 1, 6: 1, 6: 2.
In Paris, the German hopes for the gentlemen now rest on Altmaier. The 22-year-old qualifier continued his impressive triumph in Paris and knocked out number seven seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini 6: 2, 7: 6 (7: 5), 6: 4 on Saturday. Altmaier is completely surprising in his Grand Slam debut in the second round. There it is now against the Spaniard Busta, who had only lost to Zverev in five sets at the US Open in the semifinals. The 29-year-old is considered a player who hardly gives his opponent points for his own mistakes. No problem for Altmaier: “I won’t give him anything either,” said the man from Kempen with confidence.