French Open – Wilander exclusive: That’s why Nadal and Djokovic have an advantage over Zverev and Tsitsipas

French Open – Wilander exclusive: That’s why Nadal and Djokovic have an advantage over Zverev and Tsitsipas
Written by insideindyhomes

Alexander Zverev stood on the Suzanne-Lenglen court after his first match and was happy to have come through smoothly. “I usually start Grand Slam tournaments with five-set matches,” joked the 25-year-old.

While that’s less common now, start-up problems in matches and major tournaments are still a factor that puts the younger pros at a disadvantage compared to the Big 3.

From Wilander’s point of view, this means that Zverev or Tsitsipas suddenly “have match point against them in the third round because they had a bad phase in the match”.

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Not so with the three legends. “You don’t see that with Rafa, Novak or Roger. They hardly ever got off to a bad start,” emphasizes Wilander, who won seven Grand Slam titles during his career.

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The three exceptional players from Spain, Serbia and Switzerland “always took the lead in the first rounds, they made breaks, then acted more relaxed and got the first set”.

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How often, Wilander asks rhetorically, “does a player come back when they lose the first set against Rafa?” That is almost a “thing of impossibility,” the 57-year-old provides the answer.

The first days of Roland-Garros confirm Wilander.

Wilander: “Rafa would never say something like that”

While defending champion Djokovic and record winner Nadal started the classic with two three-set wins, Zverev and Tsitsipas already have five-set duels on the clock.

Both the German and the Greek fell behind with 0:2 sets and were on the verge of being eliminated. “Tsitsipas then explained that he wasn’t really there and that he was disappointed in himself. Rafa would never say something like that,” emphasizes Wilander.

The only one from the younger generation who successfully broke out of this scheme is Daniil Medvedev. The 26-year-old won the US Open last season and started off with two straight wins in Paris despite his aversion to clay.

Alcaraz the laughing third party?

The history of the past ten to fifteen years teaches that Zverev and Tsitsipas have to be on their guard.

“Let’s talk about the generation before that with Marin Cilic, Juan Martìn del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori and others. With a few exceptions, they didn’t win any Grand Slams – because of Novak, Roger and Rafa.”

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The Big 3 would do the same “now with this generation, with Stefanos and Sasha. They haven’t gotten used to winning big tournaments at the age of 25. That’s incredible,” marvels Wilander. Carlos Alcaraz could be the beneficiary of this situation. “He’s maybe 21 years old when he wins his first Grand Slam and then he learns much faster.”

Means: The clock is ticking for Zverev and Tsitsipas …

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