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Tennis Update • Rafa Nadal Predicts Grand Slam Greatness For Zverev Within Two Years

Rafael Nadal of Spain (L) poses with the trophy after defeating Alexander Zverev of Germany (R) in their men’s singles final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, 20 May 2018. EPA-EFE/ETTORE FERRARI



By Ricky Dimon


Alexander Zverev is already overdue for success at the Grand Slam level–at least when you consider his Masters 1000 prowess. Although he is still a mere 21 years old, he has already captured an amazing three Masters titles and has been to finals on two other occasions at Masters 1000s. The story has been a much different one, however, at majors.


In 11 career appearances in the main draws of slams, Zverev has advanced to a second week (fourth round) just once–at Wimbledon last summer, when he defeated no one ranked better than No. 64 in the process. The German has reached to third rounds just three other times. Shockingly, his best-ever win at a slam is over then-world No. 57 Robin Haase in round one of the 2017 Aussie Open.


In total, the Zverev is a disappointing 14-11 at majors. That amounts to a 56.0 winning percentage. By comparison, he is an outstanding 47-20 at Masters. That amounts to 70. 1 winning percentage.


Those are especially alarming numbers given that it is much easier to win a greater percentage of matches at slams than is it at Masters 1000s, as slams generally feature dozens of players ranked outside the top 75 or even the top 100. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Stan Wawrinka–among plenty of other examples–have all comfortably won a greater percentage of matches at Grand Slams than at Masters 1000s.


Nadal, who held off Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final last Sunday, is not ready to press the panic button for Zverev. In fact, the Spaniard ended his post-match press conference by suggesting to give the youngster two more years worth of Grand Slam appearances before alarm bells should be sounded. Nadal also predicted–even borderline guaranteed, in fact–that such bells will not be necessary.


“If he’s not playing well in Grand Slams during the next two years, you will–you can come back to me and tell me, ‘you know anything about tennis,’” the world No. 1 said. “But, I believe that (it’s) gonna be a different story. So, that’s my feeling.


“Tennis is tennis. It doesn’t matter (if it’s) best of three (or) best of five. And playing best of five is a big advantage for the best players, and Sascha is one of the best players. So it’s always a big advantage to him; that’s my feeling. If [it happens] that Sascha is not doing great results in the next year in Grand Slams, you can come back to me and say, ‘you were wrong.’ But, I believe I will not.”


Zverev also had some praise for Nadal.


“I’ll be in the other half of the draw (at the French Open), so, that’s a good thing,” he said with a smile. “Rafa will be the favorite there, there’s no question about it.”


.Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.


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