Tennis-Zverev reduced to playing 'on one leg' in five-set tussle with Fritz

  • Tennis
  • Tuesday, 09 Jul 2024

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 8, 2024 Germany's Alexander Zverev in action during his fourth round match against Taylor Fritz of the U.S. REUTERS/Isabel Infantes

LONDON (Reuters) - Alexander Zverev traded brutal blows with Taylor Fritz for 3-1/2 hours on Monday, fighting toe-to-toe with the American as their fourth round showdown stretched into five sets and at the end of it all, the German declared he had been playing "on one leg".

That observation seemed to even surprise Fritz, who said the "match seemed extremely normal" to him until he broke Zverev in the fifth set en route to a 4-6 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(3) 6-3 victory.

The German fourth seed had jarred his left knee following an awkward fall in the previous round and he turned up on Centre Court on Monday wearing a protective support on his leg.

But considering Zverev then went on to regularly bombard his opponent with 130 mph missiles, fired down 19 thunderbolt aces, produced 55 winners and even won the longest rally in the contest which dragged on for 21 shots, his post-match revelations were rather unexpected.

"It was fairly obvious that I wasn't 100% today, right?" Zverev asked reporters before elaborating that an MRI scan had shown that he had a tear in his knee capsule as well as bone bruising.

"I wasn't moving really the entire match. If I was running for a dropshot, I was limping there more than running.

"There wasn't really long rallies because I couldn't play long rallies. Credit to him that he came back but it wasn't a great tennis match."

The German had been enjoying some of the best form of his career in recent months and following on from his run to the French Open final, he was hoping to reach the last eight at the grasscourt major for the first time.

Having been two games away from victory when he was two-sets-to-love up and locked at 4-4 in the third set, his inability to crawl over the finishing line proved to be both mentally and physically painful.

"It (the knee) is nothing that I need surgery on. It is nothing that doesn't heal by itself. It just needs time," said Zverev.

That will at least provide some comfort to the German, who has bitter memories of injuries ending Grand Slam challenges, notably at the 2022 French Open.

On that occasion he had to be taken off court on a wheelchair during his semi-final against Rafa Nadal, having sustained serious ankle damage that kept him out of action for several months.

But for Zverev, bowing out in the fourth round on Monday was hard to digest since he had been enjoying a remarkable run of form at the All England Club, winning his three previous matches in straight sets and recording 56 successive holds of serve before finally being broken by Fritz at 4-4 in the third set.

"I do know that also I had a great opportunity here at Wimbledon. I didn't want to pull out," said Zverev.

"Yesterday I couldn't walk even. Today I felt much, much better. That's why I did try to play.

"I also knew I had a great opportunity this year at Wimbledon. It's the best I've probably ever felt on the Wimbledon courts, the best maybe I've ever played here. I definitely didn't want to go out without fighting," added the German, who expects to be fit in time to defend his Olympic title at the Paris Games later this month.

"At the same time I was limited. It is how it is. I'm still proud of what I could do today."

(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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