Rome: Alexander Zverev amazed by Rafa Nadal

Alexander Zverev
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Before they start to play in Rome, Alexander Zverev talked with the journalist whether Rafa Nadal will play in Roland Garros, who will likely be the last time in Paris. Nadal has won 14 Grand Slams at Roland Garros. Zverev was playing terrific, but he fell down and he ruined his leg. He had to retire. Nadal won, eventually, and while Zverev is much better now than he returned when he did, but he still isn’t playing 100% on court.

Yet Zverev does have a few memories. When he started, on the tour, he could see that Nadal is phenomenal.

“I have mixed feelings and mixed emotions obviously about that match, about playing him there just simply because it was one of the best tennis matches I’ve ever played in my career, but it was the worst ending I’ve ever had to a tennis match in my career,” Zverev said. “ [Nadal] ball becomes all of a sudden a few kilometers an hour faster. All of a sudden his footwork and foot speed becomes a lot faster.  It’s more difficult to hit a winner, especially on Philippe Chatrier, which is a massive court, so he has a lot more space. It is very difficult. It’s the biggest challenge that you can have in our sport, playing Nadal on that court.  I would love to do it one more time just simply to kind of have a different ending to those memories, right? That’s just something in my mind. I would love to play him one more time.”

They might in Rome, or in Paris, in the next four weeks. But we don’t know, yet. Nadal has not yet reached into the semis this year, playing three events, when he returned, and the injured man is still not yet healthy. But he said that he could play 100 percent, but he doesn’t sure, yet. Regardless, Nadal will fight on, and hope that he can go deep in Rome. He will face Zizou Bergs, the Belgian, on center court. People will cheer him, every second.

There are a number people who are still there, the Italian men and the women. Somewhat sadly, the world No. 2 Jannik Sinner pulled out, due to another injury, but Matteo Arnaldi can play on the number one court, and the young man will play against Tomas Machac in front of a lot of fans. He really has to feel on the ball.

Over the past year, Jasmine Paolini has added more game. She might not be very tall, but she can drive the ball, corner to corner. She is 28-years-old, which mean that she is a veteran, but she did won Dubai two months ago, so she has to  thrown in some more, aggressive, shots.

“Usually I want to hit more flat, but my coach says to me always to try to play more topspin because it’s good to have a variation on your game. I think it’s something different because in female tennis you see like more flat shots,” she said. “It’s not easy also because you need maybe a little bit more time. But I try to mix it up a little bit. I think it’s good to change a little bit the variation, the speed of the ball,”

There will be three more matches on Thursday with Emma Navarro against Paula Badosa, Shelby Rogers against the No. 7, Qinwen Zheng, and Amanda Anisimova, who just became back this year against to play with the veteran, Sara Errani. Talk about stroke after stroke, for many hours.

Can Emma Raducanu win consistently?

Emma Raducanu
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

It can take a long time to recover on the court, to understand what you need to do, or something, but the former U.S. Open 2021 champion, Emma Raducanu, is getting better now. This week, she is playing Stuttgart,  a very solid area, and Raducanu seems to be more thoughtful, on court and off. Last year, she got hurt in April 2023, and then she could not play during the rest of the reason, as she had to undergo a surgery, on both her hands and her ankle. She did win a couple terrific matches this week, but over the past three and a half months, she has been up and down. However, she can make a decision, and then to decide to go crosscourt, or down the line. She can be  aggressively, or be patient. It is her decision.

Raducanu beat Angie Kerber pretty easily, but there were long rallies, yet she most of it.

“You need to be really careful not to overpress. She makes the court seem really small,” Raducanu said. “ There were moments in that match where I didn’t really know where to hit the ball because I felt like she was covering so much of the court and she was using my pace really well.  I think just not trying to squeeze the lines too much and kind of just playing the shot and almost not trying to hit winners, and accidental winners I feel like are the best way, because I wasn’t trying to blast winners around the court. I was just committing to my strokes and would hit winners by accident sometimes. I feel like that’s the best way to approach it because then you’re not getting stressed out. It’s just a pleasant surprise when it happens.”

She must have been. The 21-year-old is a fine player with her forehand and her backhand, and she is also somewhat quick. Her serve is so-so, and at the net, she is OK, but not fantastic. Maybe she will, someday, but she has to become substantially better, as she has only won one event, and nothing else.

“I think the last weekend I played some great tennis. I’m mentally in a good place,” Raducanu said. “I’m taking a lot of confidence from the training I’m doing. I feel like I can actually, like, lean on that more so now because I’m actually doing the work, whereas last year it was very difficult. I have played a lot of matches and I’m feeling fatigued than being super fresh and losing. It’s funny, because you always want something that you can’t have.  But I am playing some really good tennis.”

She is going to play even better, as she has to face the No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who can take you out immediately. … Also in the quarterfinals, Elena  Rybakina is ready to try to win another title, but while she can look stunning, she can also fold. Or maybe she will not, yet she has to face against the Italian Jasmine Paolini, who has had a terrific season, winning Dubai. She is more aggressive then she did five years ago….Coco Gauff has had a pretty good year, yet as she has said, she can miss some key opportunities. She will go up against Marta Kostyuk , a re-match, as Gauff beat her 7-6, 6-7,6-2 in the third, a marathon. One more time?

With the men, how about the teenager, Arthur Fils, who a big match in Barcelona? It will take him more of a while, but his two coaches, Sergi Bruguera and Sebastien Grosjean, have done it a lot when they went into the big matches, so maybe they can teach him with more various strokes…Rafa Nadal lost there and while he did not play great when he went down, but he just came back, with his frequently injury,  so assuming that he can play 100 percent, then he will be very good again. But that is a huge question, health wise…There are two players who are seeded like Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and they look on top of it. But can they win the event? That is possible, as long as they can be a victim, on the famous clay.