INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The last time world No. 7 Alexander Zverev played a Challenger-level tournament goes back … a long way.
July 2015, actually, in Braunschweig, Germany. He lost in the second round to countryman Daniel Brands.
Zverev and big brother Mischa lost in the second round (quarterfinals) of the doubles there, as well.
Nearly five years later, they returned to the Challenger circuit together at the Indian Wells Challenger.
The circumstances were rather unique. The Masters 1000 tournament is being held here next week. So if you’re going to arrive early, as Zverev did, you might as well get a match or two in to break up the monotony of practice.
As well, Mischa Zverev is really struggling in singles at the moment. With a ranking of No. 256, he doesn’t have a whole lot of options other than Challengers.
Tough loss for Mischa
Big brother’s first round against JC Aragone of the U.S. (ranked No. 275) was a hard-fought comeback victory, 5-7, 6-0, 7-6 (6). Wednesday, he lost 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to No. 9 seed Grégoire Barrere of France.
As a warmup for the doubles Wednesday, the younger Zverev practiced with fellow young gun Alex de Minaur, and played a practice set.
Here’s what it looked like.
Doubles a struggle for the brothers
Zverev and Zverev were the defending champions at the Acapulco ATP 500 tournament last week. They beat some really good teams, too – including the Bryan brothers and Feliciano and Marc Lopez.
This year, though, they lost their second match, to Fabrice Martin and Adrian Mannarino of France.
As late afternoon turned into early evening, the brothers hit Stadium 5 for a first-round doubles match against Americans Sebastian Korda and Mitchell Krueger.
Unusually for this Challenger, there was a full complement of six ball kids – no doubt a nod to the younger Zverev’s status. Most of the courts have had three, sometimes four kids running balls.
The brothers were beaten, 4-6, 6-4, 11-9 in the match tiebreak.
For Alexander Zverev, it was a tough one.
Serving issues continue to pop up
During the practice session with de Minaur, there was no sign of them. But at pressure moments during the doubles, it was evident. The double faults – most of them weakly into the net – coming at the worst moment.
It made Zverev pretty cranky overall, if he missed a volley, or if he ended up missing a big forehand after Korda and Krueger successfully deflected two or three at the net, he was most displeased with himself.
He’s probably not a ton of fun to play with right now. There’s a lot going on, on the inside.
At one point, when his brother double-faulted, the eye roll was pretty epic (a favor his older brother did NOT return when he, himself, double faulted numerous times). And on the final match point, when Mischa Zverev went for a ball down the middle that his brother would have had on the bounce – and missed – the reaction was, well, you can see it below.
If there are a lot of missed shots in the “highlights” below, Zverev also did some very good things. He absolutely cranked a bunch of forehands. And he also hit at least three stunning lobs right over the opponents for winners.
Zverev also made some pretty good second serves, despite his evident nerves. On a couple of occasions, the returns off excellent second deliveries were so unexpectedly good, however, that he was left flat-footed at the baseline and missed the second shot.
One of those was worth a solid smash of the racket. Although it couldn’t have been THAT great, because he kept playing with it.
His Indian Wells path is going to be one to watch – although he still won’t play for more than a week.