The bottom half of the 2023 French Open draw has opened up nicely for Alexander Zverev and he has a chance to bury his demons from last year’s tournament, according to Tim Henman.
Zverev was in the form of his life at Roland Garros last year as he reached the semi-final and went toe-to-toe with Rafael Nadal before misfortune struck as he suffered a horrific ankle injury, which forced him to retire from the match and also ruled him out for the remainder of the 2022 season.
The German struggled on his return this campaign and has slumped out of the top 20 in the ATP Rankings, but things are once again looking up as many of the pieces have fallen into place for him in Paris this year.
He is into the quarter-final for a third successive year at Roland Garros after dismissing Grigor Dimitrov 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 on Monday.
“It’s amazing that I can play the way I’m playing right now. To be back in a quarter-final at Roland-Garros, this is incredible for me,” the 22nd seed said after his win. “Hopefully there is more to come because now I’m here, I don’t want to leave.”
He added: “I think I’m hard working, I enjoy the hard work, but without them it would not be possible.
“They get me into the right mindset. For the first six months of my recovery I wasn’t able to walk, I wasn’t able to play tennis. To be back at this level is incredible.”
With world No 2 Daniil Medvedev suffering a shock first-round exit, it means Zverev will take on the unranked Tomas Etcheverry for a place in the semi-final after the Argentine defeated 27th seed Yoshihito Nishioka in three sets.
The winner of the Zverev-Etcheverry clash will take on either Casper Ruud or Holger Rune for a place in the final.
Speaking on Eurosport, former British No 1 Henman feels Zverev should be praised for putting his head down and plugging away while he also feels the 26-year-old can make up for last year.
“I really respect the way Zverev has continued to work hard,” he said. “You reap what you sow. What you’re putting in you’re going to get it out.
“He was really struggling with that in the early part of the year. He was losing some really bad matches and he looked frustrated, but he talked about his work ethic and the team around him. He’s just kept doing the right things.
“Now he is getting the rewards and when you think about this tournament and how he’s fought his way. How the bottom half of the draw has opened up, I think he feels like this is his opportunity.
“He was deprived of that opportunity last year, 12 months ago, with the terrible injury and now he says ‘now is my chance to get back there’. I’m really pleased for him.”
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