Zverev Endures Week Of Prep Like No Other For Australian Open
Alexander Zverev has had a week of preparation before a Grand Slam unlike any other in his career this week in Melbourne.
Two-a-days? The 22-year-old has been enduring three practices a day and logging five to seven hours on court ahead of the season's first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, which starts Monday.
The week before a Grand Slam is typically a lighter week of practice for players, especially those in the Top 10. But Zverev was disappointed with his ATP Cup showing for Germany in Brisbane – he went 0-3 against Aussie Alex de Minaur, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and Canadian Denis Shapovalov – and wanted to fix on the practice courts what troubled him.
“I need to get my tennis back because how I was playing at the ATP Cup was just not going to be good enough to do well at a Grand Slam. I know that, my team knows that, my coaching staff knows that. The hours are in now. Now it's just about getting the final preparations right,” Zverev said on Friday in Melbourne.
The seventh seed is looking to reach past the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time. Zverev has twice reached the Roland Garros quarter-finals (2018, 2019). His best showing in Melbourne came last year when he made the fourth round before falling to Milos Raonic of Canada.
“This was more like a training block for me really than a preparation for a Grand Slam. But it's also different: I've never been past a quarter-final at a Grand Slam. Maybe this will also be something new and something different and maybe it will work as well,” Zverev said.
Zverev said, in particular, he worked on his serve, which had troubled him in Brisbane and at times last year. His serve was working well in practice, he said, which typically bodes well for his matches.
“I'm also not a player that gets too nervous or too emotionally down when I play matches. When something doesn't work in practice, that's when it doesn't work in matches,” he said.
“For example, at ATP Cup, I was not able to serve in practice as well. It was just bad with the timing. It was just off. Normally when it gets better in practice, it also will automatically get better on the match court. Maybe not in the first match or the first set, but I think gradually it will improve as well on the match court.”
Zverev isn't counting himself as a favourite to win the season's first major championship, but he's not counting himself out, either, as he expects the usual flurry of upsets Down Under during the first month of the season.
“Other players are playing better than me. So this is also a process. I'm happy to know that I can go out there and feel comfortable. Maybe go through a few matches, and then, normally what happens with me is the further I can go in the tournament, the better I start playing,” he said.
“I think a lot of young guys have a chance this year, maybe more than the last few years. It's going to be interesting to see. I think there will be some upsets during the week, I think some young guys maybe will lose earlier than we think they will. But I also think some young guys maybe will do better than we think they will.”
And although the three-time ATP Masters 1000 titlist doesn't arrive in Melbourne with heaps of momentum, he's prepared to fight his way through the draw.
“I will still try my best. I will still work my butt off to win every single point that I play out there. If it works, great, if it doesn't, I will do the same and train again,” Zverev said.
As he knows, practice is great but it's not match play.
“The day when you're on court everything changes," he said, "and nobody really cares what you've done the weeks before.”