Every tennis player goes through considerable slumps and moments of concern. Alexander Zverev is the latest top player trying to rediscover his better form. But, he is running out of time with the French Open just around the corner.
Injury and illness
It has certainly been one problem after another for the German since he claimed his biggest title at the World Tour Finals in London at the conclusion of last season. First a niggling and concerning ankle problem stuttered his progress during the Australian Open, where he eventually fell in the fourth round to Canada’s Milos Raonic. He had to pull out of the big event in Rotterdam just weeks later with that same injury.
That itself was a big blow for Zverev, who would have been desperate to get more ranking points on the board at a 500-level event before preparing for the hard court events in America at both Indian Wells and Miami. But that wasn’t the end of the troubles for the former World No.3. He then had to deal with a viral illness while in California during the Indian Wells event. Ever since then, he’s been really trying to play lower tournaments to not only find the blistering form he showed last season–but also to get some ranking points to keep his Top 10 status nice and secure.
It’s certainly been a season of catching up for Zverev, who after an unsuccessful experience in Miami then took a late wild card into the tournament in Marrakech, but still wound up searching for answers both in his baseline game and also in his overall confidence. The German wasn’t able to defend his title in Madrid from last year or his finalist points in Rome, so now is playing in Geneva to restore the confidence and build some much-needed momentum going into one of his most important events on the calendar.
What Zverev needs to do
In years gone by we’ve talked about Zverev as one of the possible contenders for the French Open crown. This year, there are still a lot of things that need to be addressed and put right before he makes that next step and claims that first Major title.
The confidence this season is something he is working on this week in Switzerland, but I think Zverev really has to find out what particular game-style works for him and for him to utilize it to the best of his ability. The quality of shots and ability to beat the very best players in the world has always been something he has mastered quite well–but we are currently looking at a player that is stuck in two minds of whether to be an aggressive, unforgiving baseliner, or whether to soak up pressure and use his foot speed from the back of the court. There are pros and cons for either game-style, but Zverev certainly has to find the right solution in order to support his mental approach when coming into the Majors.
There’s a lot to work on that won’t necessarily all be solved all in a fortnight at the French Open, but once Zverev has the game identity, solves the mental issues he has when it comes to tackling the pressure of a two-week Major, then we will start seeing the very best of Zverev for a sustained period of time in the coming seasons. He’s definitely in one of those tennis slumps that can take time to get out of, but a really good week in Geneva and a tournament of positives in Paris could really turn things around quicker than even Zverev would have thought.