Status: 01/03/2023 12:42 p.m

    Alexander Zverev is just noticing how his forced break of around seven months due to a foot injury has thrown him off balance. That only helps matchcollect practice, says sports science.

    Anyone who couldn’t see the frustration in Alexander Zverev only needed to take a look team box at this United Cup to throw in Australia. There sat his trainer and father Alexander as well as the German team captain and brother Mischa. It was a mixture of helplessness and bewilderment that could be seen on their faces.

    His opponent, the American Taylor Fritz, who easily won 6: 1 and 6: 4 against the 25-year-old German, afterwards said that Zverev “a little rusty” seemed to be. Two days earlier, Zverev was already 4: 6, 2: 6 against the Czech world number 81. Jiri Lehecka was clearly inferior. And the question arose: has Alexander Zverev forgotten how to play tennis?

    Find confidence in your own body

    Despite all the disappointment, the explanation for the German’s latest results was obvious to everyone involved: Zverev was with them around seven months ago French Open in Paris against Rafael Nadal twisted terribly and tore three ligaments in his right foot and later also suffered from bone edema – which resulted in an almost endless break for the best German tennis player.

    “It takes time at this high level until he has found his match practice again and is completely unencumbered in his head”, says scientist Philipp Born, who works at the Institute for Mediation Competence in Sports at the Cologne Sport University. Running actively into the respective corners for every ball, trusting your own body without being afraid of injuring yourself again, is a mental process that takes time.

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    Tournament matches cannot be simulated

    In addition, there is always tennis “a clear difference between match and training”, says Born. According to scientific studies, a player’s adrenaline level is at one match always significantly higher than during a training session. The physical strain, which is determined using lactate values, is also significantly increased.

    Some professionals would try to play for money in training matches to increase the tension even more. But even if you start a tournament in this waymatch want to simulate with all its circumstances, “It is quite clear in sports science that this is ultimately not possible”says Born.

    And that’s how Zverev sees the stresses he takes on United Cup feels higher than at the show tournaments a few days earlier, when he even managed to win against what is probably the world’s best player at the moment, Novak Djokovic. “Physically, I’m not at the level I need to be yet. I get tired a lot quicker than before. I’m not as fast as I probably was.”said Zverev after the Fritz match.

    Dominik Thiem is still looking for his top form

    “If suddenly everyone wants to win, like in this tournament, the conditions are different again.”, says Born. For Zverev it is now before the first seasonhighlightsthe Australian Open (January 16th to 29th), mainly about playing as many matches as possible in order to get closer to or even reach your top form.

    How difficult a comeback Austria’s top player Dominik Thiem, who was out for ten months after a serious injury to his playing arm (tendon sheath rupture) in June 2021 and who is still subject to strong fluctuations in his performance, is an impressive example.

    The probability that Zverev in the Australian Open is already back at its top level is relatively low, believes Born. But: “Sometimes, when nobody expects anything from an athlete, he suddenly plays freely”according to the sports scientist.