With Lower Expectations, Alexander Zverev Seeks To Break New Ground

Alexander Zverev French Open
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Expectations can work in amusing ways. For some, carrying expectations can be a huge motivator and kick-start exemplary achievement–just ask the Big Three of men’s tennis. Alexander Zverev, on the other hand, has just found out at this year’s French Open that he functions better without them.

What Changed This Year?

When Alexander Zverev lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas at this year’s Madrid Open, little did he know at the time what this might initiate. The Greek would go on to reach the final, beating Rafael Nadal in the semis en route. Suddenly the spotlight for this year’s clay court season was shining vividly on Tsitsipas, a welcome change for Zverev.

After his win over Dusan Lajovic in round three, Zverev said in his press conference at Roland Garros, “I think I’ve been talked about less which is a very nice thing, you know people talk about obviously Rafa, Novak, and all those guys but Tsitsipas much much more which is for me very nice.”

Zverev has underperformed at the Grand Slams so far. He always manages to play well in the big tournaments before the Slams, though, and with that comes a bucket load of reckoning. This year, however, with just the one title in Geneva, which probably came at the most opportune time for him, has been a blessing in disguise. At this year’s French Open he has been playing with less focus on him than usual, and that seems to be working for him–particularly in his fourth-round encounter against Fabio Fognini.

The Road Ahead

Twice Alexander Zverev has conceded a two sets to love lead to win in five sets. What’s refreshing about these matches is that instead of capitulating, he’s creeping through to keep himself alive. He’s been playing the pressure points well and more importantly not holding back on his shots.

Matching his best at Grand Slams by reaching the quarterfinals at this year’s French Open, Zverev will quickly find out that the spotlight is never too far. The onus once again is on Zverev to carry the burden of the NextGen. To do that, he must defeat Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the French Open to book a place in his first ever semifinal at a Grand Slam. If he succeeds–or even comes close–that may finally signal he’s starting to thrive under the lofty expectations.

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