Zverev Finds His Happy Place In Montpellier Once Again

Alexander Zverev (photo: Open Sud de France Montpellier/JBAUTISSIER)

MONTPELLIER/WASHINGTON, February 5, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Alexander Zverev has always enjoyed fond memories of playing in the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. After all, it’s where as a 19-year-old, he won both the singles title and teamed with his older brother Mischa to win the doubles crown, too. Like in 2017, Zverev has once again found his happy place in this southern French city near the Mediterranean Sea.

Fast forward to this year, the 24-year-old World No. 3 from Germany is attempting to capture his second singles title at the Sud de France Arena in this ATP 250 indoor hard-court event. On Friday, the top-seeded Zverev, who accepted a wild card to play in this year’s tournament, moved to 9-1 lifetime in Montpellier with a 6-1, 6-0 quarterfinal victory in 50 minutes over No. 58 Adrian Mannarino of France. It improved Zverev’s career head-to-head against Mannarino to 7-0. The loss dropped Mannarino’s lifetime record against Top-4 opponents to 0-13.

The 19-time ATP Tour titlist Zverev hit eight aces and saved all four break points he faced from the left-handed Frenchman to set up an interesting Saturday semifinal against Mikael Ymer of Sweden. The 83rd-ranked Ymer came on strong in the final set to beat 75th-ranked Richard Gasquet of France, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1, which lifted him into his second career tour-level semifinal.

The other semifinal will match No. 5 seed Filip Krajinovic of Serbia against No. 6 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan. In Friday’s other quarterfinal matches, Krajinovic advanced over qualifier Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 7-5, 6-2, while Bublik upset No. 2 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (4).

Zverev, who was eliminated in the fourth round of the Australian Open by Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, said earlier this week in a pre-tournament press conference that he had a good offseason and good preparation. However, he stressed that he wanted to improve. “Look, there are no excuses,” he said. “I need to be better; I need to do better. It’s as simple as that.

“It’s no one else’s fault. It’s not the coach’s fault, it’s not my team’s fault, it’s no one else’s fault. It’s purely me.”

Since arriving in Montpellier, Zverev has strung together back-to-back solid performances to defeat No. 56 Mackenzie McDonald of the United States, 6-2, 7-6 (5), and Mannarino. It advanced him to the last four against the surprising 23-year-old Ymer.

Following his win against McDonald on Thursday, Zverev said during an on-court interview that he’s giving himself the best chance he can to do well. “Obviously, I’m happy to be back here. This is a place I really enjoy coming back to. After the Australian Open that I had, I wanted to play tournaments before my scheduled tournaments in Acapulco, Indian Wells and Miami. I said Montpellier is the perfect fit for that and I’m happy to be here.”

After his one-sided victory against Mannarino Friday night, Zverev added: “Sometimes, that is how matches go. At the end, I felt a little sorry for Adrian because we have had so many tough matches together … and he is in great form at the moment. He reached the fourth round at the Australian Open and played a great match against Rafa [Nadal].

“I came here to play good tennis and, hopefully, to find my form again, which was missing in Australia. I am hoping that [Saturday] will be even better. I am looking forward to the next two days as well.”

Asked to assess Ymer’s success this week, Zverev said: “He’s playing very well. Obviously, two very different matches that we had today. He’s going over two-and-a-half hours and I’m going under an hour. He’s a very young guy, very talented and moving up the rankings, too. I’m looking forward to it.

“Look, I’m in the semis now. Again, I came here to play great tennis and I think I have all the chances in the world if I do that. I hope I can show that on court. I love playing here. It’s incredible. I love the court, I love the people, I love the crowd.

“The stadium is incredibly nice. For an ATP 250 event, this is one of the nicest stadiums that we have on tour. I always enjoy it.”