Confidence meets luck: Zverev couldn’t lose this final

Confidence meets happiness
Zverev couldn’t lose this final

By Jannik Schneider, Turin

Alexander Zverev can call himself tennis world champion, for the second time since 2018 he wins the ATP Finals. In Turin he is bursting with self-confidence and has luck on his side in the game against his feared opponent Daniil Medvedev. And thus stop a negative trend.

There are days in the life of an athlete – and for this realization the level of performance is completely irrelevant – it becomes clear early on in a competition: Today is just one of those days when a lot is going in the right direction. It is not known what Alexander Zverev felt and thought when the yellow felt ball decided on Sunday evening shortly after the start of the match in the final of the ATP Finals with an early break chance for the German to touch the edge of the net and to be unattainable on Daniil Medvedev’s side land.

At the score of 1: 1, Zverev had repeatedly attacked the Russian’s forehand with aggressive baseline hits and worked out three break chances, only to then become a bit passive. In the scene described, for example, Zverev shoveled the return into the field with a lot of spin, but quite harmlessly and positioned himself too far behind the baseline. But the backhand, which was then hit a little too late, led to the fatal net roller. And when Zverev first managed the break, the 24-year-old didn’t look back.

Nobody is more dependent on self-confidence

Then it became one of those days. The best German player since Boris Becker didn’t have to fend off a single breakball in the 6: 4, 6: 4 success in the final of the year-end tournament of the best eight players against the world number two from Russia. Confidence, it’s no secret, helps every player. But there is no athlete in the higher spheres of professional tennis who is so dependent on his self-esteem on the center courts of this world. If the 1.98 meter tall blonde giant feels at home, then one technical cog engages the other. Zverev then serves as precise as Swiss clockwork and harder than any other top player. Even the somewhat weaker forehand is a dreaded weapon in these phases.

On Sunday, in the Pala Alpitour in Turin, he became the first player since Andre Agassi 31 years ago, who defeated the two best players in the world according to the world rankings in the semifinals and finals of the most important event outside of the four Grand Slam tournaments. In the semifinals, he had already eliminated industry leader Novak Djokovic.

Zverev has now won the event, which migrated from London to Turin, twice, collecting 19 titles in its still rather short career; also won Olympic gold in Tokyo. When Zverev, framed by fireworks and confetti, lifted the Champions League-like handlebar pot, it didn’t go straight to partying. In global tennis, almost a dozen television interviews must first be completed – this is how it was conducted from TV station to TV station. The most frequently asked question was about the missing Grand Slam title. Who wants to blame the moderators; the discrepancy in Zverev’s vita is astonishing. He has pretty much cleared all the important titles over two sets of wins and defeated each of the three overplayers Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. 37-43 in this mode is his more than respectable performance against top ten players. But in Grand Slam tournaments over three winning sets, he failed in all four attempts – this year in the semifinals in Paris and New York just ahead of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Djokovic.

On Serbian TV, he answered briefly and concisely when asked whether the first Grand Slam title was due in 2022: “I hope so.” After the TV interviews, he met, among others, Paulo Dyballa, the Argentinian star striker from Juventus Turin, in the catacombs. Then Zverev shot a few funny videos with Tiktok and Instagram star Khaby Lame in an effective advertising manner. The Senegalese who lives in Italy has become a millionaire within a very short time with entertaining videos about the sense and nonsense of so-called life hacks. In such things, Zverev goes into his ironic and cynical manner. Brother Mischa’s team also had a lot of fun.

“Calling World Champion again”

To the author

Jannik Schneider is a freelance journalist and reports on tennis, doping and sports politics and mental health, among other things. He also reports from Turin daily in his Podcast Advantage.

Before going back to the hotel for further celebrations, Zverev came to the official press round. “I can now call myself world champion again. It’s unbelievable,” he said after proudly placing the trophy on the desk in front of him. According to Zverev, the match plan has become obvious to everyone. “I wanted to play as aggressively as possible today,” said Zverev. After the narrow defeat against Medvedev in the preliminary round, brother Misha had indicated that it had taken his protégé too long to get into the game. On Sunday after five defeats in a row against Medvedev, Zverev turned the narrative in his favor.

Despite the success, Zverev’s physical, but above all mental fatigue was noticeable. He doesn’t think it’s a shame that the season is over for him now. “Zero, not a bit,” he explained with an ironic undertone, only to append relievingly. “I’m just looking forward to the vacation.” Zverev had already canceled his participation in the reformed Davis Cup finals at the weekend in Innsbruck due to the long season.

Today, Monday, Zverev is flying to the Maldives with friends and girlfriend Sophia Thomalla. “We’ll be doing a lot of nonsense for sure, but don’t worry, nothing dangerous,” he said. In 2022 he wants to attack the big tournaments, so start fitness again during the break. In the new year it should finally work out with the longed-for major title. “I can only say one thing. I will do whatever is asked of me and what is in my power and I will rip my ass so that it happens in 2022. I cannot influence anything else.”

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