The arrogance of youth
While the lack of a deep run at the majors is something the 21-year-old wants to set right, it is not cause for concern in his eyes. “That’s nothing to worry about too much,” he said at the Australian Open, where he lost to eventual semi-finalist Hyeon Chung. “A lot of times [it was] not because I played bad, but because I played very good opponents. I lost to Nadal here, I lost to Raonic in Wimbledon – every time in five sets … I've shown on multiple occasions that I can play and beat the best guys in the world.”
Arrogance? Perhaps. But there’s truth in his assessment: he has a 15-19 record when facing opponents ranked in the top 10, including victories over Roger Federer on grass and hard courts, and Novak Djokovic on clay. Two notable exceptions heading into Roland-Garros: Nadal (0-5) and Juan Martin del Potro (0-2).
Time on his side – but no time like the present
It’s remarkable to think that Zverev is set to compete in just his 12th Grand Slam next week, given his status as the de facto No.2 seed. But a Grand Slam triumph would not be a departure from recent history: Federer won his first Grand Slam title in his 17th major appearance at the age of 22, while Djokovic won on his 13th major attempt and Nadal his sixth.
“Hopefully I'll be able to play the same kind of tennis like I did in the last three weeks,” he said in Rome. “We'll see. The next few days, I will not even think about tennis. And then I'll go to Paris and do my best to prepare and try to compete for the French Open. Of course, Rafa will be the favourite there, there's no question about it. I'll be in the other half of the draw, so that's a good thing.”