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On and off-court drama plaguing a tennis star Alexander Zverev

At the French Open last year, Alexander Zverev hoped to win his first major title after twice winning the
ATP Finals and capturing a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. But a torn ligament in his right ankle
forced him to retire from the semi-finals in a wheel chair.

Off-court, Zverev has faced plenty of adversity as well, much of it self-inflicted. A public feud with a former agent over money was settled out of court. Allegations of domestic abuse by a former girlfriend dogged him for about two years, prompting an investigation by the ATP.

And after throwing an on-court tantrum following a doubles loss last year, Zverev was fined $40,000 and put on 12 months of probation for “unsportsmanlike conduct”. Yet the German remains one of the most diligent workers on tour.

Edited excerpts from a recent interview:

With everything you’ve been through, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

When you are young , you’re naive. You think everybody’s your best friend . But tennis is a business which
unfortunately, is not always the nicest thing in the world. I have a very close circle. I don’t let people in that much anymore. I only have people who I truly 100 per cent trust. I had to learn to go into myself, to get the
noise out of my head to be able to compete.

Of all the men you’ve beaten — Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev— who
is the most difficult?
They all have their own difficulty. When Rafa’s playing well on clay, he’s unbeatable. I’ve played Novak on a lot of surfaces, but when he is in the zone, he is also very difficult. With Roger, everything just happens so fast. You feel like you’ve just started the match, and you’re already down a set and a break, and you have absolutely no idea how it happened. Medvedev just doesn’t miss. It doesn’t matter what position in the
court you put him in, he’s always going to put the ball back, so you have to win the matches yourself. You
honestly can’t name one that is most difficult.

What about this game gives you the greatest joy?
It’s that you’re really you. You win by yourself, you lose by yourself. You can’t hide behind your teammates. A lot of players say they play for the money and they don’t really love tennis. (But) For me, there’s
no better life. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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