French Open

Zverev happy for Tsitsipas to steal spotlight

2019-06-04 14:32
Stefanos Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas (AP)

Paris - Alexander Zverev would be overjoyed to finally win a maiden Grand Slam title but just as happy to see rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas also claim a first major.

For so long the poster boy of the widely-hyped 'NextGen', but desperately uncomfortable with the burden of expectation, the 22-year-old German has seen Greek rival Tsitsipas edge him out of the spotlight.

"The best thing that could have happened for me is how good Tsitsipas' clay court season was," said Zverev.

"I actually do believe that. I'm happy for him."

Tsitsipas, two years Zverev's junior, was seeded sixth at Roland Garros but his hopes of making a second successive last-eight at the majors ended in an epic five-hour defeat by 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka.

Zverev, on the other hand, has made it through to a second successive quarter-final in Paris and will face world number one Novak Djokovic on Wednesday.

However, he has yet to get past the last-eight at a Slam while Tsitsipas raced to the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January, beating Roger Federer on the way.

It took Tsitsipas nine appearances to reach his first Slam quarter-final - Zverev needed 15.

"He can be proud. He is a new superstar all of a sudden.

"And for me, it was actually quite a nice thing that not all of the attention of the kind of 'NextGen' thing is only going my way."

Not that Zverev's path to the quarter-finals has been smooth.

He needed five sets to get past Australia's John Millman in the first round and then four to see off Dusan Lajovic and another four to defeat Fabio Fognini.

In contrast, Djokovic has yet to drop a set or even break sweat in reaching a record 10th successive French Open quarter-final.

The Serb has conceded an average of just seven games a match.

Zverev had endured a mediocre clay court season until the eve of Roland Garros when he clinched the Geneva title, playing on a last-minute wild card.

It was a decision prompted by a quarter-final exit to Tsitsipas in Madrid and a first-up exit at the hands of Italy's Matteo Berrettini in Rome.

While he struggled, Tsitsipas won the title in Estoril, was runner-up to Djokovic in Madrid and made the semi-finals in Rome where it took Rafael Nadal to halt him.

The 6ft 6in (1.98m) Zverev admits that his patchy form in 2019 has also been impacted by off-court issues.

He is involved in a legal battle with his former manager which has left him increasingly distracted.

"I had to do a lot of things that I usually don't do, a lot of management stuff, a lot of lawyer stuff, so things that I'm not used to doing," he explained.

"Those kind of things took my focus away a little bit from tennis. But I'm in the quarter-finals here, so something seems to be working all right now."

Zverev is 2-2 against Djokovic in his career and won their only meeting on clay in the Italian Open final in 2017 in straight sets.

He also defeated the world number one in the championship match at the 2018 ATP Finals in London.

 

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