‘I’m A Contender’: Zverev Looks To Maintain Turin Charge In Vienna

  • Posted: Oct 22, 2023

‘I’m A Contender’: Zverev Looks To Maintain Turin Charge In Vienna

German opens against home wild card Ofner at ATP 500

After lifting his second title of the year in Chengdu in late September, Alexander Zverev made a clear statement to his ATP Tour rivals.

“I’m playing good tennis and I’m winning tournaments again which is the most important thing,” Zverev told ATP Tour Podcast in China. “I’m a contender. That’s something I missed at the beginning of the year, when I didn’t feel like I was. I’m back to the same mentality of winning tournaments and the same mentality of trying to be one of the best.”

The 26-year-old Zverev has the chance to back those words up again this week in Vienna, where he is the fifth seed in a stacked draw at the Erste Bank Open. It could prove another crucial week for the German as he continues his charge towards Nitto ATP Finals qualification. Zverev, who is a two-time champion at the prestigious season finale, is seventh in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.

“If I make Turin, if I come back after such an injury and not playing for seven months when I was really uncertain if I was ever going to come back to the level that I was… If I come back and I’m one of the best eight players in the world, it’s a great achievement, there’s no question about it,” Zverev told Chris Bowers of ATP Tennis Radio on Saturday in Vienna. “It’s a comeback year to remember, that’s for sure.”

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Zverev spent the first few months of this season reacclimatising himself to competitive tennis after he missed the second half of 2022 with a serious ankle injury sustained during his Roland Garros semi-final against Rafael Nadal. He won just three of his first nine tour-level matches this season, but gradually rediscovered his level and, perhaps more importantly, his confidence in his body.

“I think for me it’s just being healthy,” said Zverev. “I think at the beginning of the year I was still managing pain, I was still dealing with pain. I was not moving the way I wanted to move, I was not sliding around the court, if you look back at the matches that I played. It was more that for me.

“If you want to be competitive at this sport you have to be 100 per cent healthy, you need to be moving the way you want to on the tennis court. For me to be able to do that, I need to be pain-free.”

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Such has been the increase in Zverev’s level that he will step on court against home wild card Sebastian Ofner in his first-round match in Vienna seeking his 50th win of the 2023 season. Highlights of his year so far include becoming champion at his hometown ATP 500 in Hamburg for the first time in July, before he added a 21st ATP Tour crown to his collection at the ATP 250 in Chengdu.

With the good times beginning to roll once again, Zverev is starting to see some positives coming out of the testing road back from injury.

“I think you really appreciate the sport of tennis,” said Zverev. “You really appreciate the tough days, the fun days. You just appreciate being out there on the court, when it gets taken away from you. Most players realise that once they quit tennis because they don’t have this period, this injury. I realised it earlier on, so I’m thankful for that, but I want to get back to where I was.

“I didn’t want the injury to happen, obviously, but it did make me grow, it did make me realise what tennis actually means. If I’m back to the level, if I win Grand Slams and become World No. 1, maybe I’ll look back and say ‘It was all worth it’.”

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