Alexander Zverev’s “Challenging” day (video)

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.

Easy as pie for Raonic over Zverev

MELBOURNE, Australia – Alexander Zverev and Milos Raonic have both been No. 3 in the world. 

But the seven-years-younger German already has more career titles. And he’s currently ranked 13 spots above the 28-year-old Canadian.

But here’s the thing.

Raonic has been in a Wimbledon final. And but for a truly poorly-timed adductor injury in Melbourne in 2016, he might well have been in the Australian Open final that year as well. He’s made five other Slam quarterfinals, and Wimbledon semi in 2014.

So on resumé, in these supremely significant circumstances, he probably shouldn’t be the underdog against Zverev. The 21-year-old German still battles to be considered a Grand Slam contender, despite the brilliance of his early career.

And so it was on Monday at the Australian Open, when form held

For two sets, Zverev was tight as a drum. His second serve failed him. But even Zverev made it competitive in the third set, it was too far gone. And in unexpectedly routine fashion, Raonic is into another Australian Open quarter final after a 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory he wrapped up in less than two hours.

“I played bad. The first two sets especially I played horrible. Yeah, I mean, it’s just tough to name on one thing. I didn’t serve well, didn’t play well from the baseline. Against a quality player like him, it’s tough to come back from that,” said Zverev, whose racket destruction at 1-6, 1-4 was arguably the most havoc he created all day.

Zverev remains stuck at one career Grand Slam quarterfinal (or better) appearance – last year at the French Open.

For Raonic, it’s No. 9.

Staying positive

A bit of modern sculpture crafted by Alexander Zverev after going down two breaks to Raonic in the second set of their fourth-round match Monday.

From a tight quarterfinal loss to Daniil Medvedev in his season opening tournament in Brisbane a few weeks ago, Raonic came into Melbourne with a fresh mindset.

“I think it was all really emotional and mental. I believe I had eight break chances in those first two sets against (Medvedev). So I had more than enough opportunities to make the most of it. … But then I got a little bit too down on myself, and I think that sort of shined a light on something that I really have to do differently at this event,” Raonic said.

“And I think I have worked on that, and I think I have also had to play against top players where I couldn’t afford to be undisciplined in that regard.”

Tough draw turns into good draw

After coming up against the dangerous Nick Kyrgios in the first round, and the dangerous Stan Wawrinka in the second round, Raonic got a (relative) breather against the unseeded Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Drawing Zverev, when the possibilities for the No. 16 seed in the round of 16 were Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Zverev, also qualifies as a break.

So does getting No. 28 seed Lucas Pouille. The Frenchman is his first Slam quarterfinal since the 2016 US Open.

For Pouille, just getting there after five first-round losses in his first five trips to Melbourne is a victory. One of those defeats, in 2016, was inflicted upon him by Raonic,.

The Canadian is 3-0 in his career against the Frenchman. And that includes two victories in Australia.

Shades of 2016 for Raonic

This is Raonic’s best Australian tennis since that 2016 tournament, when he was up two sets to one against Andy Murray before an adductor injury scuttled his chances in the semifinals. He also had defeated Federer in the final of Brisbane leading up to it.

There wasn’t much the trainer could do for Raonic’s adductor in that 2016 semi against Murray. He didn’t retire, but he couldn’t run.

It’s hard to accurately convey how devastated Raonic was after that Murray match, especially compared to his generally composed demeanour in defeat.

Even his hair was drooping.

Normally strong on eye contact, he looked down disconsolately between responses He avoided anyone’s direct gaze as he tried – only somewhat successfully – to keep his emotions in check. 

“Probably the most heartbroken I felt on court, but that’s what it is,” he said then.

Through three years of trials and tribulations since then, the Canadian feels he’s a better player now. But he admits that many aspects of the competitive environment seemed easier in 2016.

Raonic played spectacular tennis that year. And it was crowd-pleasing tennis, too.

Your average tennis fan would posit that’s a factual impossibility. But the crowd reactions proved otherwise.

” I think back then I just found some situations a little bit easier to deal with, because I had three or two good years from 2014 to 2015 before that, and it was sort of — you don’t have to think about things as much. Instinct takes over when you have played that many matches consecutively,” he said.

“Now you always have to think about things a bit more because you’re always trying to search for that rhythm, that – sort of – what should you do. Whereas in those situations I don’t think I was really asking myself. I was trusting a lot more.”

We’ll see what the rest of the 2019 edition holds for him.

Pro-Federer crowd boos as Zverev reaches London final

Until that moment – a key moment in the ATP Tour Finals semi between Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev – the decidedly pro-Federer crowd at the O2 had mostly behaved itself.

There were a few cheers here and there when Zverev missed a first serve on key points.

But it was ably kept under control by veteran chair umpire Carlos Bernardes, who has been around the “home-crowd” phenomenon block a time or 10.

But then, with the German serving at 3-4 in the second set tiebreak, and Federer taking control of the point, it got a little cruel.

And the result was a tough, tough moment for Zverev, whose diffidence and confidence often belie his tender years, but who at heart is just a kid still trying to navigate his way among the greats of the game.

There was no mistaking the hindrance as the ballboy tried to collect an errant ball. Zverev saw it, while chair umpire Carlos Bernandes was following the flight of the ball.

A ballboy at the back of the court lost control of a ball during the point, and it rolled into the field of play. He probably should just have let it roll, until Bernardes – or even Federer himself – saw it and stopped the point. But he tried to sneak into the court, unobtrusively, to collect it.

Zverev saw him and immediately stopped play.

The boos rained down upon Zverev, who was well within his rights to stop the point. But he was taking a risk in doing so.

A few minutes later, after Zverev had sealed the win with a bravura performance against a fairly in-form Federer, he heard a few boos again.

It wasn’t a huge portion of the crowd. But it was evident, and loud enough.

The rest of the crowd – the more knowledgable tennis fans, who grasped the situation and didn’t let their emotions rule – quickly began to cheer to try to drown it out.

Zverev apologizes to crowd

Zverev’s relief and excitement at beating his idol on such a big occasion was quickly replaced by confusion and emotion when the crowd booed him.

Emotional as he reached the biggest final of his young career, Zverev didn’t quite know what to make of it at first.

Then, he quickly realized why the fans were booing.

And he immediately addressed the crowd during his on-court interview with Annabel Croft.

“First I want to apologize for the situation in the tiebreak. The ballboy dropped the ball, so it’s in the rules that we have to replay the point,” said Zverev, who added that Federer accepted his apology at the net.

Croft then lectured the crowd. That, of course, is not in her job description – not that she was wrong.

“I’m not sure why you’e all booing, because he’s telling the truth. The ballboy did move across the court, and it disrupted play. And those are the rules,” she told them. “I think you have to be a little more respectful.”

Even the tournament director weighed in.

“Obviously a lot of Roger fans here”

Zverev apologizes to Federer at the net after his win, something Federer said later was completely unnecessary.

Zverev was clearly upset. The look on his face – equal parts emotion, confusion, and hurt – wasn’t something we’ve seen from him. But there can’t be too many worse feelings  than being blamed by 15,000 fans for something that’s not your fault.

The crowd paid copious pounds for their seats. So if they’re thus inclined, they can cheer for one player and root against another. But when it happens, it still goes against that admittedly thinning veneer of sporting fan behaviour that still coats the game.

The looks on the faces of Federer’s wife Mirka an mother Lynette pretty much summed up the state of affairs late in the match.

You know this wouldn’t have happened at the All-England Club, even with Federer playing.

But this is a different crowd – more of an event crowd, less awed by the surroundings and the tradition.

The German completely understood the situation he found himself.

More than a “true Brit”

In London, Federer is almost more than a true Brit. He’s like a “super Brit”. Many of the tennis fans in that city probably embrace him more than they do their own because of his reverence for – and success at – The Championships.

“I understand the frustration. It’s just unfortunate circumstances. These things happen. Booing, I never like it. We see it in other sports all the time, but in tennis it’s rare. So when it happens, it gets very personal and we take it very direct,” Federer said afterwards.

“Sascha doesn’t deserve it. He apologized to me at the net. I was like, ‘Buddy, shut up. You don’t need to apologize to me here. … So he shouldn’t be apologizing. He didn’t do anything about it. He just called it how it was, and he felt it affected play. There is a rule that if something like this happens, obviously you replay points.”

More apologies from Zverev

What a learning moment for the young star.

He had to process beating his friend, mentor and idol on such a big occasion. And then he had to deal with a wholly unexpected situation.

He did so with impressive maturity and not an insignificant amount of grace. In the end (and it doesn’t hurt that he won), he’ll be a better competitor for it.

“I want to apologize to the crowd, obviously there’s a lot of Roger fans here. As he deserves. From what he’s achieved and what kind of guy he is, he should have the most fans in the world. In London especially, how much history he has here,” Zverev said. “The crowd has been amazing. The crowd has been absolutely fair the whole match. Again, I’m very sorry that this happened. I didn’t mean to upset anybody.  That’s all I can say, Sorry.”

When he came into his post-match press conference, Zverev admitted that the situation shook him up a little.

“I was very emotional afterwards. The booing went into cheering kind of afterwards, which kind of helped me, as well. Obviously a lot of emotions going on through my head. I was really upset afterwards in the locker room, as well. I’m not going to lie. I had to take a few minutes for myself,” he said.

Risky move by Zverev

There was no major fault to Bernardes for not spotting the wandering ballboy. The chair umpire is following the ball in play, not the one in the ballboy’s hands. Often they see these things. But sometimes they don’t.

Federer asked the ballboy if he had, indeed, caused a hindrance. Poor kid owned up to it.

As with anything else that happens on court, in a sport lacking the oversight of an extra official on the sidelines as a spotter for any unusual issues, if the umpire doesn’t see it, he might well not call it.

And if he doesn’t see it, he might not order up the point to be replayed.

Zverev would have had no recourse in that situation. In this case, having stopped play, he would have lost the point and been down a crucial mini-break, at 3-5 in that second-set tiebreak.

‘I’m not questioning Sascha’s sportsmanship in any way. Like I said before, it’s a bold move by Sascha to stop the rally because the umpire can just say, ‘Sorry, buddy, you’re in the rally. I don’t care. You lost the point. I didn’t see it’.

“It was just totally an umpire’s decision with the ball kid and the lines person, as well, just making sure they got the facts right” he added. “I don’t know what the rule says. I always thought it was an umpire’s decision, not a player’s decision. In practice we stop rallies all the time when balls come flying from the second court.”

Getting it right the priority

Bernardes did the right thing.

Given he didn’t see it, if we apply the protocol for an unofficiated match to this situation, either player can call a let and stop play when a ball rolls onto the court. 

ZVerevThe only case where you wouldn’t would be if the player waited too long to call it – i.e., waited until he or she was in a convincingly losing position, or even after they lost the point. Zverev called it immediately.

Bernardes’s priority was getting it right.

He asked the line umpire over in that corner to confirm what happened. And it was confirmed.

Federer, who by then had gone up to the chair to get an explanation, asked the ballboy (who was back to his position near the net) to confirm it. The kid nodded. And Federer accepted it.

And so the Swiss went back to receive serve again. He got a good first serve back (Zverev averaged 135 mph on his first serve Saturday). But that one was called a let.

On the third try, Zverev hit an unplayable ace out wide, clocked at 137 mph.

Three times unlucky for Federer

‘I mean, it’s a very difficult call. I didn’t see it. The umpire didn’t see it. But, you know, once the ball boy said that’s what happened, linesman confirmed, the umpire believes them, which is obviously true, what is there to be done? It’s normal to replay the point from that point on,” Federer said.

“It was obviously a big call. Instead of being in the rally in a decent position, you get aced, yes, it makes a difference. It could have made a difference. That’s all hypothetically speaking now, at this point.”

It was bad luck – three times – for Federer on a crucial point. But that’s the sport.

If it seems as though it always happens in crucial situations, that’s probably because when it happens at 1-1, 15-15 in the first set, we quickly forget.

In the end, Federer didn’t play badly, But Zverev played a virtuoso match. He went 9-for-10 at the net in the second set, and closed out the victory with a swinging backhand volley winner.

“I’m unbelievably proud. Me and my team have been working so hard for this,” Zverev said. “I’m a little upset now about the whole situation, how it all ended.  Because it’s not how I wanted it to end.”

He’ll play the winner of Saturday night’s semifinal between the unbeatable-looking Novak Djokovic and his opponent in the Wimbledon final earlier this year, Kevin Anderson.

“I played Novak a few days ago, and it didn’t go too well for me. I don’t hope he’ll lose, but a slight preference maybe in the opponents,” Zverev said. “But it’s the finals, so I’m just happy to be here.”

(All screenshots from

Serena vs. Roger highlights Hopman Cup

We’re still nearly three months away.

But the launch of the 2019 Hopman Cup already has targeted the big day: New Year’s Day 2019.

That’s when Team Switzerland takes on Team USA.

And that means that two of the best of all time, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, will square off on court in mixed doubles.

Those are two pretty big gets for the exhibition event, which could well be in its final edition if the new ATP team event starts up, as planned, in 2020.

So if this is the finale, that’s quite a way to go.

Federer will again team up with Belinda Bencic to defend their 2018 title. Williams will pair with young countryman Frances Tiafoe, making his first appearance.


Young, attractive field

If the field appears, at first glance, to lack a little star power (having those two legends is already enough), tournament director Paul Kilderry did point out that it includes four Grand Slam singles champions (Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza are the others), three top-10 players (Federer, Zverev, Kerber) and eight top-20 players.

Already announced was the new “it” tennis couple from Greece, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari.

From Great Britain, no Andy Murray or Johanna Konta. Instead, they’ll have the duo of Cameron Norrie and Katie Boulte – an impossibly good-looking combo.

With Muguruza will be … David Ferrer. And you thought the 36-year-old, currently ranked No. 147 and playing a Challenger in Monterrey, was done? Apparently not.

You’d have to think, if he’s going all the way Down Under, that Ferrer plans to play one more Australian Open as well. Perhaps that’s why he’s still out there on the Challenger circuit this week, trying to squeeze into the Melbourne main draw.

The 2017 finalists, Switzerland and Germany, return intact this year.

Barty and Ebden for Australia

The teaming of brother-sister combo Marat Safin and Dinara Safina was long-awaited in 2009. But big brother celebrated the pairing a little early in a Moscow bar, before heading down to Perth. LEGEND.

Our thinking was that the most glam matchup for the home team would have been the off-field couple, Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanovic.

It’s always an extra bit of fun when real-life couples play mixed doubles together.

Absent that, they’ve come up with top Aussie woman Ashleigh Barty and 30-year-old Matthew Ebden, who’s ranked fourth in the country behind Kyrgios, young Alex de Minaur and John Millman.

The French team of Lucas Pouille and Alizé Cornet, who won the event in 2014 with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, are in the field.

Kerber and Zverev, last year’s finalists, also team up again and have by far the best combined ranking in the field.

Draws already done

To be able to start promoting Serena vs. the Fed, you had to have the round-robin draw done.

And so it is. Looks like Group B is the tougher group. But only one of those tandems can make the final.


Dec. 29 kickoff with the Greeks

The schedule is here. The proceedings kick off with Great Britain vs. Greece on Saturday, Dec. 29 (coming up before you know it).

There is no session on New Year’s Eve evening or on New Year’s Day. The event always has a pretty fantastic New Year’s Eve party – and they definitely have the field to gussy it up.  (Remember when Marat Safin showed up after a rough night back home in Moscow, his face all bruised up?)

The Maui Jim pair will team up in Perth, a farewell tour for the 36-year-old Ferrer. (Photo: Madrid Open)

The USA vs. Switzerland tussle will be New Year’s night.

New this year at the event, it’s free kids’ ticket day for all day sessions.

You hope this isn’t really, truly the last-ever Hopman Cup. The event has been around since 1989, when Czechoslovakia’s (!!!) Helena Sukova and Miloslav Mecir defeated Australia’s (!!) … Hana Mandlikova and Pat Cash in the final.

(Mandlikova’s Aussie citizenship didn’t last nearly as long as the event).

Here’s their history roll, with some classic pics.

It’s built up a lovely tradition. And the players seem to have a blast playing it. No doubt this year they’ll have a lovely tribute to Lucy Hopman, the wife of the legendary Aussie coach for whom the event is named. Hopman passed away during the US Open, at the age of 98.

A Florida resident, she made it to Perth every year until 2018, when she was 94.

Progress …


If you wanted to hear from ITF president David Haggerty – the Hopman Cup is under the ITF umbrella – here is his requisite press release quote.

“We are delighted once again to see such a strong entry for the 2019 Mastercard Hopman Cup, the ITF’s mixed team competition, at the start of the new tennis season. The ITF team competitions, which also include Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, give players a special opportunity to represent their countries, one that they value long after their playing days are over,” Haggerty said.

“Hopman Cup also offers fans a unique chance to see some of the game’s biggest names team up to play mixed doubles, which remain some of the most popular matches of the week. I would like to recognize our title sponsor Mastercard, and all the other sponsors and partners who continue to support the Hopman Cup.”

Looks like he got ALL the sponsors covered there. As one does.

Ivan Lendl joins Team Zverev (photos)

NEW YORK – There some hints about this, notably when photos surfaced of Ivan Lendl working with Alexander Zverev for a week down at his Florida home last month.

But even last week in Cincinnati Zverev, while complimentary towards Lendl and his wealth of knowledge, said he wasn’t planning any changes to his team. At least not “right now”, but possibly down the road, he said.

It seems the future for Zverev is … right now.

The new collaboration with Lendl became official Tuesday when Zverev posted it on Instagram.

The two-time coach of Andy Murray has joined Zverev’s team, complementing his regular coach, father Alexander Sr.

Nothing from Lendl directly. But his business associate Jerry Solomon passed this along.

The former champion had said “no” to fellow Czech Tomas Berdych, when Berdych solicited his help a couple of years ago.

Perhaps with Zverev, still just 21, he felt he could have more of an impact.

Or the money was right. Or both.

Lendl sits his way through practice

It doesn’t appear as though Lendl, who is 58, is starting this new collaboration in the best of health.

Throughout Zverev’s hit with Evgeny Donskoy of Russia in the brand-new Louis Armstrong Stadium, he sat – literally, about 99 per cent of the time.

Best guess, from the way he was carefully sitting down: his back was acting up on him (back woes were what essentially ended his career).

Here’s what it looked like.

(Zverev may well have been the first player to officially hit a ball out of the new stadium. He wasn’t in a particularly cheery mood. And Donskoy – who has a wise old sage as a coach in Boris Sobkin – was playing very well).

Lendl wasn’t shy about getting right in Zverev’s face. But it doesn’t seem as though the kid is quite invested in this yet. Or perhaps he’s still a little intimidated. He rarely made eye contact with his new mentor.

Zverev Sr. and Lendl are very close in age – Lendl is actually six weeks younger. Both were born in 1960. They never met on the tennis court, though.

Their official weights when they were players are still listed on their ATP Tour bios. Lendl is at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds; Zverev Sr. at 6-foot-1 and 177 pounds. But there have been a few good meals since then. 🙂


Can Lendl help Zverev get over the “hump” that’s been created by the weight of expectations, and make a big-time move at a Slam with Lendl by his side?

It worked for Murray. Although the Scott is a completely different human being.

Zverev tried a similar sort of thing with another former No. 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero, a year ago. That one didn’t last very long and ended with Ferrero levying some pointed criticism Zverev’s way.

Perhaps Lendl has the gravitas and stature (and being from the exact same generation as his father can’t hurt) to get his messages across clearly.

Third straight top-10 win for Tsitsipas

For the second consecutive year at the Rogers Cup, a teenager with a one-handed backhand is the surprise of the tournament.

Last year in Montreal, it was 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who upset Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal on his way to a shocker of a run to the semis.

This year in Toronto, it is Stefanos Tsitsipas’s turn to shine.

The 19-year-old from Greece (he turns 20 on Sunday, the day of the Rogers Cup final) has now upset three consecutive top-10 players in his own run to the semis.

Tsitsipas is youngest to defeat three top-10 players in a single tournament since Rafael Nadal at the Monte Carlo Masters in 2006. 

First came No. 8 Dominic Thiem, who didn’t look either fresh nor ready for the hard courts. On Thursday, Tsitsipas upset No. 10 Novak Djokovic in their first career meeting.

And on Friday, he pulled victory out of the jaws of near-certain defeat in upsetting 21-year-old Alexander Zverev, the world No. 3 who routined Tsitsipas in straight sets last week on his way to the title at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

Zverev seemed ready to do it again. He led 6-3, 5-2, and served for the match at 5-3 in that second set.

And then, it all unraveled. The end result was a 3-6, 7-6 (11), 6-4 win for the younger man.

“I was just walking the ball back and making him play every single ball. And at that moment, he wasn’t into it. He starts missing. And he got tighter, I think. He understood that’s his chance to close the match,” Tsitsipas said. “And I just did things right and, yeah, I broke him. That’s how you break, if you play things right and you play clever. And I did that, and I was back in the match again.”

As he played with house money, Tsitsipas just hung around until it was definitely, indubitably over and the two shook hands. His more-accomplished opponent did not.

Hang in, and good things can happen

The world No. 2 from Germany had two match points in the second-set tiebreak. And he was up a break in the third set, as well. And after he coughed that up, it was as though his mind just left the court. Beyond one angry firing of the racquet that was betraying him, it was almost as though he was merely a bystander observing his own demise.

You know who’s going to be really happy about all the Zverev-Tsitsipas clashes to come? adidas, that’s who. (Screenshot: TennisTV)

He went 1-for-9 on break points in that third set, after going 4-for-5 in the first two.

Notably, Tsitsipas earned just four break points over nearly 2 1/2 hours. But he made good on all of them even if his own first-serve percentage never went over 50 per cent in any of the three sets.

A Challenge left undone

A case in point: as Zverev served to stay in the match at 4-5, leading the game 30-15, he crushed an inside-out forehand that landed plumb on the sideline.

The ball, at 4-5, 30-15, wasn’t just barely in. It was right on the line, a clean winner that would have given Zverev a 40-15 lead as he served to stay in the match. He didn’t challenge.

Except the linesperson called it out. And Zverev didn’t even question it. He barely even reacted.

Within a matter of moments, he tried a best-left-undone serve and volley. And then on match point, Zverev double-faulted. Badly. You could see that coming a mile away.

Tsitsipas also had his spidey senses tingling.

“Well, yeah, to be honest with you, I kind of suspected before he even start his motion that there’s going to be a chance for me to close it straight away. And I was not expecting a double fault, but I was at least expecting something more in my terms, let’s say,” he said.

Tsitsipas appeared stunned with it was over, and with good reason. He was absolutely down and out. And suddenly he was holding his arms up in the air in victory, and looking ahead to his first Masters 1000-level semifinal against No. 4 seed Kevin Anderson on Saturday.

“Pathetic”, said Zverev

Zverev may have come into the press conference room a little too hastily, because he’ll probably get some heat for his … honesty.

He thought they were both horsebleep.

“I don’t think today he played that well. I think the match was absolutely pathetic on all levels. You know, returning, he started to return. I mean, he was serving 125 (mph) to my backhand, and I was missing them. That does not happen,” Zverev said. “I mean, I’m very honest with you guys. I always say when the opponent play(s) better. I’m probably one of the most honest guys on tour. Today was a pathetic match from -– I don’t even think he played well.

“He started putting some balls into the court. I think before he was playing really bad. And I actually thought I was playing bad the whole match,” Zverev added. “So I lost a little bit of concentration. I lost a little bit of rhythm, but it wasn’t – I mean, even if I would have won, it wasn’t a good match.”

Zverev wasn’t necessarily wrong, even if the delivery left a little to be desired.


Tsitsipas had clearly been tipped off about that comment before coming into press nearly 90 minutes later. So he had his response ready.

“I’m working with a sports psychologist that’s really good. And he told me something, and I remember it since like four or five years. That a good player can be seen in his bad day. And I completely agree with that. The level of tennis today, in my opinion, was not the highest. It was all right. People seemed to love it, love the show and everything,” Tsitsipas said.

But I played – I would say I played okay. He seemed … I don’t know. The conditions are different here. So it’s really tough for me to compare with Washington. Because Washington, you know, with the conditions and everything was completely different. Speed, surface, it was slightly faster there,” he added. “So I would say I played more clever this time. I kind of fooled him when I was on the court and did some things that he didn’t expect me to do. And I changed my plan since last week. And as I said, I got lots of experience last week and managed to pull it out today in the match.”

It was a dramatic match because of the turnaround in fortunes. And it was an attractive matchup because it involved two of the best young talents in the game. But from a tennis perspective, it left a lot on the table.

The Geman felt he should have won it 6-3, 6-3. And he also felt that the third set should probably also have been 6-3. 

Except, it wasn’t. And Tsitsipas, who began the 2018 season ranked No. 91, will jump into the top 20 on Monday for the first time. If he can beat Anderson on Saturday, he would jump into the top 15.

On to Cincinnati

By failing to defend the title he earned last year in Montreal, Zverev will drop a spot in the rankings, to No. 4.

And that will allow del Potro, who did come to Toronto but withdrew before the event started with pain in right wrist – a worrisome development, given his history  – will move to No. 3 for the first time in his star-crossed career.

The lanky Zverev, who doesn’t yet have the physical maturity he’ll enjoy a few years down the road, has played a lot of tennis over the last week. The run to the D.C. title was five singles wins plus a doubles match. The conditions were brutal, and he also had to play his big brother Mischa for the first time in what was an emotional affair for the entire family.

In Toronto, more heat, rain, humidity and late nights, and three more singles matches. So the defeat, as tough as it might be to swallow, might have a silver lining.

“Look, at the end of the day, I played a lot of matches and physically I’m quite tired,” he said. “So I’m actually quite happy to have few days off before another Masters (in Cincinnati, another event where heat and humidity are on the order of play) and then a Grand Slam (at the US Open).”

(Screenshots from TennisTV)

The Brotherhood of the (Two) Traveling Lederhosen

Winning the ATP Tour event in Munich is good.

Getting a sweet ride – a BMW i8 roadster – is even better.

The only condition is … you’ve got to put on the lederhosen.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev knows the drill.

With a 6-3, 6-3 victory over two-time champion Philipp Kohlschreiber Sunday, he repeated as champion.

That means two vehicles – and another pair of lederhosen.

(FYI – the retail price of the car starts at … $163,300 US. You can add a $2,500 brake package and $6,300 laser headlights. At that point, might as well, right?)

Zverev lost the first set he played on the week, to countryman Yannick Hanfmann. But he wasn’t troubled the rest of the way. His four victories included an impressive 7-5, 6-2 dispatching of fellow youngster Hyeon Chung of Korea.

This time, the white one


It’s pretty much a first-world problem to already have one major sports car, so the biggest concern is not getting another one in the same colour.

Seriously, isn’t that annoying?

A year ago, the merchant of speed was black.

Fashion-forward in München

If you thought they just stored away the lederhosen for a year until the next edition of the tournament, think again.

Zverev now boasts two pairs, similar, but not identical.


The best part is how the winner did the quick-change right on the court before thousands of fans, and tournament director Patrick Kuhnen peeking over the makeshift change room.

(The on-court change room is a concept that has GOT to find more uses. It might save a lot of time on those endless bathroom breaks, allegedly for ‘change of attire’,and stop us from questioning the TRUE MOTIVES!)

The new tradition of the lederhosen began in 2015, when Andy Murray (who’d probably fancy a kilt, to be honest) needed three hours to defeat Kohlschreiber 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 7-6 (7-4) to win his first career clay-court title at age 27.

It was also the first clay-court title by a Brit in nearly 40 years. So it was certainly worth a pair of lederhosen.

He doesn’t look embarrassed in the least. Then again, he has posed in this

Andy Murray won it in 2015, inaugurating the very German tradition.

Kohlschreiber, who kind of looks a wee bit sheepish most of the time (that’s just his face), didn’t look sheepish at all when he posed for his trophy shot.

In fact, he looked very at home. He really could model in a lederhosen catalogue.

Philipp Kohlschreiber was spared the change of attire when he won it in 2012. But in 2015, when he repeated as champion, he was probably happy to put them on.

The legend of the lederhosen probably guarantees that Rafael Nadal will never play Munich.

NO chance he gets into those without splitting the seams .

Duelling lederhosen

But hmmmmm … Hold the phone.

Now, we’ll grant you it’s a small sample size. But it appears there are two different pairs of lederhosen. So they must rotate them.

But it appears they are indeed recycled.

You have to think they dry-clean them in between, right?

Next year, we suggest the full look – with suspenders. They’re on sale, too.



Charity Day in Monte Carlo

At first glance, it looks like Monte Carlo’s powerhouse men’s interclub team all went out en masse for a hit and giggle.

Novak Djokovic, the Zverev brothers, Marin Cilic, David Goffin, Grigor Dimitrov  were on hand – a powerhouse lineup. All went out and did their part for La Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco. The Monaco sovereign’s charity is devoted to the environment and sustainable development.

But there were some non-resident exceptions: Dominic Thiem (still a resident of Austria) and Lucas Pouille (Dubai) also took part.

(Some celebs most of us in North America have never heard of also participated).

Meanwhile, some pretty high-level qualifying matches were going on on the outside courts. Seppi vs de Minaur, Troicki vs Stakhovsky and Delbonis vs Mahut toiled as the stars took over the Court Central.

TennisTV streamed the charity event on Facebook:


As well, Djokovic went out and had a little hit with his son, Stefan.

Main draw begins Sunday

There is a 56-player singles draw and only a week to get it done. So matches in the Monte Carlo main draw will start on Sunday.

The final round of qualifying also is happening, including Nicolas Mahut vs. Jérémy Chardy. With that quality, sometimes it’s hard to tell the main draw from the qualifying.

Some matches to look out on Monday for involve a couple of wild cards.

Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis (22) will meet Russia’s Karen Khachanov (21) in a battle of young guns.

And 17-year-old Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime will play Mischa Zverev, 13 years older.

Spain to Davis Cup semis in dramatic finale

The best thing about Davis Cup is that its rich history is so full of career-making moments.

It can be a relatively obscure bench player who does something spectacular, as Germany’s Tim Puetz did Saturday in the doubles tie against Spain.

Or it can be a player who’s had a fine career , but never ever quite had that moment to shine.

For David Ferrer, in his Valencia home, charged with winning a fifth and decisive rubber for the first time in his career, this was such a moment.

Ferrer, who turned 36 last week, was playing in his 24th career Davis Cup tie. And as sterling as his 27-5 record was, he had never carried the entire tennis nation on his shoulders.

Magic moment, at home, when it counts

But on Sunday, before a faithful home-city crowd, after the return of Rafael Nadal to the competition put the first two points up on the board but the French Open-champion pairing of Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez were shocked the day before, Ferrer seized the day.

Overmatched in his first match Friday against world No. 4 Alexander Zverev, Ferrer finally put away a valiant Philipp Kohlschreiber, 7-6 (1), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-5 Sunday in four hours and 51 minutes.

The victory puts Spain in the September World Group semifinals against France.

The moment put Ferrer in the pantheon of his country’s sporting heroes.

“Very emotional, this competition. I have my best emotions in my career. So I’m really happy,” Ferrer said during an on-court interview after the match. “It’s really difficult to describe the feeling in this moment. Difference was in the final set. I played better than him. I was very focused, and the first set (which Ferrer won) was the key. In the first set maybe he was better than me, and after that it was very very close.

“For me its a dream, playing at home, here in Valencia, have the support of al the people, my family, my team. We’re in the semifinals, so it’s one of the best days in my career, for sure,” he added.

The day began with Ferrer’s teammate Rafael Nadal taking world No. 4 Alexander Zverev to school in a clinical 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win. It evened the tie at 2-2 in the wake of Saturday’s doubles defeat, and gave Ferrer his opportunity to shine.

Tough conditions in the bullring

And it was a day that had everything. Rain. Cool temperatures. Blustery winds that blew the red clay into the eyeballs of players and fans alike. But as the big crowd approached its seventh hour in the Valencia bullring, not many had left.

Kohlschreiber was up 3-0 in the fourth set tiebreak. But he lost it. Ferrer was up a break in the fifth set. But Kohschreiber won three straight games to go ahead again. 

Germany had two break points at 3-4 to have an opportunity to serve for the tie. But two Kohlschreiber backhands – one topspin, one careful slice – flew over Ferrer’s baseline as the wind carried them a little too far.

At 5-5, 30-all, Kohlschreiber got an awkward bounce on the clay-deprived court, missed a forehand, and gave Ferrer an opportunity to break. 

And then, on an epic point that sums up Ferrer’s career and heart, he ran down at least three near-winners, one after another. After more than 4 1/2 hours on court, he made Kohlschreiber hit just one more ball.

It was a backhand volley, near the net. And Kohschreiber couldn’t make it.

After that, with Nadal still frantically cheering from the sidelines, Ferrer was able to close it out. He fell to the court in exhausted ecstasy.

Ultimate sportsmanship

Before even celebrating with his teammates, Ferrer was over on the German side consoling opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber and his teammates.

And then, to no one’s surprise, after shaking the chair umpire’s hand and hugging his captain briefly, he immediately headed over to his vanquished opponent, as Kohlschreiber sat disconsolate on the German bench.

A consoling moment with him, hugs and handshakes for the German squad. And only then did he head over to get mobbed by his teammates.

“I feel so emotional because … the match the both played was unbelievable. Also very special for David, that we love, one of the greatest person on the circuit. I think he deserves a match like this one, Davis Cup, in front of this crowd,” captain Sergi Bruguera said in an on-court interview.

“Philipp, he played an unbelievable match, one of the best matches I ever saw him play. … All the match was an incredible level of tennis, incredible intensity, for five hours.”

Ferrer didn’t even want to think about France, about September, about anything but the moment.

For me it’s one of the best days of my life, and I want to enjoy it,” he said. “Maybe one glass of red wine.”

Davis Cup quarterfinal primer (Final results)

You can tell the 2020 Summer Games are coming up sooner than we realize.

Because some of the big players are looking to get their Olympic criteria met by playing Davis Cup (and Fed Cup, in a few weeks).

One interesting thing that is going to come out of this weekend is that there is going to be a LOT of public comment about the proposed major changes ITF president Dave Haggerty floated in February.

Some of the intrigue in terms of nominations and lineups has gone, with the change to a five-man roster.

But the surprise after the draw ceremonies Thursday is that Rafael Nadal, who hasn’t played since the Australian Open, is on tap to play No. 1 singles Friday in Valencia against Germany. That’s best-of-five, on clay.

Here are the details on the four World Group quarterfinals going on over the next three days.

[1] France 3, [8] Italy 1 (final)

Venue: Valletta Cambiaso ASD, Genoa, Italy
Surface: Clay – Red Clay, Outdoor
Ball: Dunlop Fort Clay Court


France: Lucas Pouille, Adrian Mannarino, Nicholas Mahut, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Jérémy Chardy.

Italy: Fabio Fognini, Paolo Lorenzi, Andreas Seppi, Matteo Berrettini, Simone Bolelli.

Missing: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gaël Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon (FRA).


Friday final results

#1 Lucas Pouille (FRA) def #2 Andreas Seppi (ITA) 63 62 46 36 61
#1 Fabio Fognini (ITA) def. #2 Jérémy Chardy (FRA) 67 (6) 62 62 63

Saturday final results

Pierre-Hugues Herbert / Nicolas Mahut (FRA) def Simone Bolelli / Paolo Lorenzi Fabio Fognini (ITA) 64 63 61

Sunday final results

#1 Lucas Pouille (FRA) def #1 Fabio Fognini (ITA) 26 61 76 (3) 63
#2 Andreas Seppi (ITA) vs. #2 Jérémy Chardy (FRA) – not played


Spain 3, Germany 2 (complete)

Venue: Plaza de Toros de Valencia, Valencia, Spain
Surface: Red Clay, Outdoor
Ball:Head Davis Cup


Spain: Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut, Feliciano Lopez, David Ferrer, Marc Lopez

Germany: Alexander Zverev, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Jan-Lennard Struff, Maximilian Marterer, Tim Puetz

Missing: Albert Ramos-Viñolas, Pablo Carreño Busta (late scratch) (ESP). Mischa Zverev, Peter Gojowczyk (GER).


Friday final results

#1 Alexander Zverev (GER) def #2 David Ferrer (ESP) 64 62 62
#1 Rafael Nadal (ESP) def #2 Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 62 62 63

Saturday final results

Tim Puetz / Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) def Feliciano Lopez / Marc Lopez (ESP) 63 63 36 67 (4) 75 

Sunday results

#1 Rafael Nadal (ESP) def #1 Alexander Zverev (GER) 61 64 64
#2 David Ferrer (ESP) def #2 Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)  76 (1) 36 76 (4) 46 75


[4] Croatia 3, Kazakhstan 1 (final)

Venue: Varazdin Arena, Varazdin, Croatia
Surface: Clay – Red Clay, Indoor
Ball: Dunlop Fort Clay Court


Croatia: Marin Cilic, Borna Coric, Viktor Galovic, Ivan Dodig, Nikola Mektic

Kazakhstan: Mikhail Kukushkin, Aleksandr Nedovyesov, Dmitry Popko, Denis Yevseyev, Timur Khabibulin

Missing: Ivo Karlovic (CRO)


Friday final results

#1 Marin Cilic (CRO) def. #2 Dmitry Popko (KAZ) 62 61 62
#1 Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) def #2 Borna Coric (CRO) 36 76 (5) 64 62

Saturday final results

Ivan Dodig / Nikola Mektic (CRO) def Aleksandr Nedovyesov / Timur Khabibulin (KAZ) 67 (2) 64 64 62

Sunday results

#1 Marin Cilic (CRO) def #1 Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 61 61 61
#2 Borna Coric (CRO) vs. #2 Dmitry Popko (KAZ)


USA 4, [2] Belgium 0 (complete)

Venue: Curb Event Center, Nashville, USA
Surface: Hard – Premier, Indoor
Court Pace Rating: Medium
Ball: Wilson US Open Extra Duty


USA: John Isner, Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Ryan Harrison

Belgium: Rubel Bemelmans, Joris de Loore, Sander Gille, Joran Vliegen

Missing: David Goffin, Steve Darcis (BEL). Bob and Mike Bryan (USA)   


Friday final results

#1 John Isner (USA) def #2 Joris de Loore (BEL) 63 67 (4) 76 (8) 64
#2 Sam Querrey (USA) def #1 Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) 61 76 (5) 75

Saturday final results

Ryan Harrison / Jack Sock (USA) def. Sander Gille / Joran Vliegen (BEL) 57 76 (1) 76 (3) 64

Sunday final results

#1 John Isner (USA) Ryan Harrison (USA) def  #1 Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) 63 64 (Dead rubber)
#2 Sam Querrey (USA) vs. #2 Joris de Loore (BEL) (not played)

Zonal action around the globe

There also are second-round ties in the Americas, Europe/Africa and Asia/Oceania zonal groups.

Among the ones to watch are Argentina vs. Chile (they don’t like each other too much in the sporting sphere). Austria v Russia, and the Czech Republic vs. Sweden feature two former Davis Cup powerhouses, now relegated to the zonals and trying to climb back up.

There are Group II ties as well in those regions. Group III round-robin ties in Asia/Oceania and Europe are also going on all this week.