Zverev starting to play free – and pain-free – once again

The German says he is starting to enjoy the sport of tennis once again, now that he isn’t getting as many “pain signals” from his surgically repaired right ankle.

Alexander Zverev Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 17, 2023 Germany’s Alexander Zverev in action during his first round match against Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

Ahead of his second-round clash with Andy Murray, Alexander Zverev reflects on the difficulties he has faced over the last nine months as he has made his way back to the tour from a debilitating ankle injury. The former world No 2 suffered three torn ligaments in his right ankle and underwent surgery last June.

Then he underwent a grueling rehabilitation that came with a setback.

As it turns out, the setback, which shifted the timetable of his recovery by about three months, may have been the best thing for him.

Zverev: I pushed too hard, too early

Zverev told reports in Doha that his lowest point of 2022 was actually a turning point. He said after he suffered a setback in training he was forced to take time off, and it actually helped his injury recover properly.

“At that moment I thought I would maybe already be able to play, and then they told me, ‘No, it’s going to take another two, three months again.'” he said. “That was, for me, a little bit tough mentally. I packed my bags and went on holiday. I didn’t do any rehab or anything like that again.”

Zverev admitted that he was probably pushing things too fast before the setback occurred.

“But in the same time, that helped me a lot, because I think my foot did need rest. I was trying very hard to come back, and maybe I did a little bit too much,” he said.

Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros 2022
Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros 2022 Image Credit:

“I feel like I can play pretty freely now”

Zverev may be back on court in 2023, but he still hasn’t hit his stride, or completely escaped the pain that can still flare up and plague him at times. But the 25-year-old world No 16 says he’s starting to break free, and things are improving with each passing week.

“I don’t have it in the back of my mind,” he said. “A few weeks ago I used to still get signals from my foot. I used to, once in a while, still get pain. But it is in the right direction, and I feel like I can play pretty freely now. I felt that way in Rotterdam. I thought I played a lot better in Rotterdam than I did the previous weeks, even though I lost second round, but I lost second round to, in my opinion, a very good player who played well that week.”

Zverev, who is 3-5 thus far on the season, will face Andy Murry in the second round at Doha. His record tells the story of a player that is very much in the initial stages of a recovery. There will come a turning point, and it is coming closer, but for now, any progress is a good sign.

“Obviously I’m looking forward to next few weeks, and hopefully it still gets progressively better in the right direction,” he said.

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