German tennis icon Becker believes that Alexander Zverev put this pressure on himself on the one hand, but also suffered from it through his environment and the public on the other.
This “also applies to the situation – it was a set and a break against the indomitable, so to speak, against Novak Djokovic, in the back. And then he starts playing like unleashed. It starts above all in the head, with the attitude that you’re good.” Pressure – and it showed.”
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In Becker’s eyes, Zverev has reached a new level in his game, but also in his career. “He’s slowly slipping into the role of a very great player, champion,” Becker says, noting that Zverev has made significant progress. “How he played in Cincinnati, how he won there – every game except for the semi-finals in two sets – was a giant step forward!”
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However, Olympic champion Becker “only” tops second on his US Open favorites – the three-time Wimbledon winner takes center stage with another player. “He’s the number one in the world and a three-time winner of the Grand Slam this year. So if Novak Djokovic isn’t the favorite in the tournament, who should he be?” , says Baker.
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Zverev reached the top four for New York at Baker: “Djokovic is my favourite, Zverev comes in second, Medvedev three and Tsitsipas is fourth when it comes to the favourite.”
By winning the US Open, Djokovic could achieve something men’s tennis had been waiting for since 1969 – the Grand Slam tournaments. “It’s the hardest job in tennis,” Becker stressed and showed an understanding for Djokovic, who has not played any other tournaments after the Olympics: “If he had just kept playing, he would probably have run out of steam in the second week in New York.”
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Becker is well aware that his former student’s preparation was anything but optimal. “Everything is different this year than usual, and that probably fits in with his plan,” Becker said. “But he needed a break to recover from the mental stresses of the year.”
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The excesses of that tension were released in the losing Olympic semi-final against Sasha Zverev, when Djokovic unleashed his fury on his racket multiple times. “I’ve already seen that Novak was really mentally bad at the Olympics in Tokyo,” says Becker, who meanwhile dismisses critics who claimed Djokovic had his country scrap the match for third in a mixed letdown. Becker defended the Serbian: “So Novak is doing a lot, but he will never give up his country. He was mentally and physically unable to continue playing.”
Olympia thwarted or not – Djokovic is playing an “unbelievable year,” according to Becker. For two other icons of men’s tennis, 2021 has been a year to forget so far. “We’ve always talked about the generational change about how long the Big Three can still make. The Big Three is now the last Mohican. That’s Novak Djokovic,” Becker describes the current situation.
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After his third knee operation, Roger Federer is back on the tour in the stars. For Becker, this plays only a secondary role, health is the most important thing. “He still has the rest of his life ahead of him, and whether or not he’ll play tennis again is secondary. He’s already won a lot and he doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone,” Becker says.
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“Even Nadal fans are slowly getting used to the idea that Rafael Nadal won’t play forever,” warns Leyman. The Spaniard’s very physical game began taking its toll in his mid-30s. “You have to worry about Rafael Nadal’s health,” Becker says, reminding him, “Time doesn’t stop for him. He needs a break – you’ll do well.”
For Zverev, on the other hand, a break at the moment would be the worst thing that could happen to him…
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