From the back of the pack – zverev makes it to the final in a duel between buddies?

From the back of the pack - zverev makes it to the final in a duel between buddies?

The day before his most important grand slam appearance to date, alexander zverev shut himself away. No hullabaloo at practice should distract him from his lofty goal of becoming the first german to reach a grand slam final at the australian open since rainer schuttler in 2003.

The semi-final debutant joined dylan alcott and heath davidson, the australian doubles winners in wheelchair tennis, for a photo. Otherwise, however, zverev was preparing for his final chance against his austrian buddy dominic thiem on friday (9 a.M.) in his training session, to the exclusion of reporters and fans.30 a.M. CET/eurosport), according to the organizers.

Zverev has been thrust back into the limelight as a sudden title contender. The australian daily newspaper "the age" also reported more prominently than in the previous two weeks about the hamburger’s promise to donate the prize money of around 2.5 million euros to help in the aftermath of the bush fires if he wins the tournament.

"This year i came to the australian open with absolutely no expectations because i played so terribly," said zverev, the first german semifinalist in melbourne since tommy haas in 2007. "Maybe this is the springboard. Maybe it was meant to happen."

In german tennis history, the australian open has already secured its customary position. Not only because zverev, after 18 unsuccessful attempts on the most important stages of his sport in melbourne, paris, wimbledon and new york, has now broken the "barrier" (zverev) of the quarter finals for the first time.

All six german tennis men who reached a grand slam semifinal in the professional arena before zverev also did so in melbourne. Schuttler was the last german to reach the final here 17 years ago. Becker last won a title here in 1996.

And what does zverev do? Before the tournament began, he had been sitting in the farthest corner of the press area, not quite sure what he was supposed to be doing. He said: "let’s see. Maybe we’ll be sitting here in two weeks and have an interview after my semifinal, and I’ll be in the final. That may well be."It was not a premonition, nor was it a brash announcement. It seemed as if he just said it like that. That he could actually reach the final on friday was something no one thought possible at the time. There was more talk about how he would make it through the first round.

The anecdote says a lot about zverev’s standing two weeks ago. The weekend before a grand slam is reserved for the stars’ press rounds. Zverev also performed this duty in the rough presses, after all, he was early on regarded as the successor to rafael nadal, novak djokovic and roger federer. This time the world number seven had drawn little interest internationally. In a small secluded room, he had answered all questions.

Competitors like russian u.S. Open finalist daniil medvedev (23) and greek shooting star stefanos tsitsipas (21) have outstripped him in recent months. Zverev’s girlfriend brenda patea (26) told "bild" that "despite all the criticism, especially when things aren’t going so well, he doesn’t let it get him down, he keeps going and above all he fights".

Thiem (26) is also ahead of the german number one in his career. The world number five has twice reached the final of the french open in paris, losing only to clay-court dominator nadal, whom he has now knocked out of the tournament in a thrilling quarterfinal. Boris becker sees the fact that the number five in the world slaved away for five sets and four hours as an advantage for zverev, in addition to "mental strength.

Other figures speak for the austrian with the one-handed backhand, who speaks of a "nice rivalry" with zverev. Zverev won only two of eight duels. He had no chance at the 2018 french open, but was let down by a sore thigh. Both share a tennis friendship, and at the same time they compete to see who can end the dominance of roger federer, novak djokovic and rafael nadal. Will it be zverev? Even in his career, melbourne park is already a special place. He has already celebrated a grand slam title here once – six years ago at the junior level.

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