Alexander Zverev shook his head almost in disbelief. He then congratulated Carlos Alcaraz on winning a highly one-sided match that was a lesson in himself. In the 1: 6, 2: 6 defeat in the round of 16 of the ATP tournament in Madrid, the Spanish tennis star clearly showed the Olympic champion who had no chance.
Just under a month before the start of the French Open in Paris, the duel against the second in the world rankings was a great mood dampener for Germany's best tennis players.
"I'm far from winning against him right now - and you saw that today," said the dejected Zverev afterwards on pay TV channel Sky: "He's doing everything better than me at the moment, that's why it's actually completely no matter what I plan to do."
Alcaraz almost flawless
The 26-year-old was very happy to go into the duel against the US Open winner, which he himself described as a "giant test". But the anticipation quickly gave way to frustration on the clay court at Manolo Santana Stadium. The list of defects was long: Zverev rarely scored points with the first serve, his attack shots lacked power and precision, a serve-and-volley game was too calculable for the opponent. Sometimes Zverev seemed almost helpless.
Alcaraz, on the other hand, acted almost flawlessly and converted his third match point after 1:22 hours. The Spaniard had expected more resistance from Zverev. "The result is not normal for me," said the 19-year-old, "but I played great and felt very good. This match gives me a lot of self-confidence." In the quarterfinals, number two seeded Alcaraz meets Russian Karen Khachanov.
Unlike Zverev, on the other hand, Daniel Altmaier and Jan Lennard Struff mastered their round of 16 hurdles. The 24-year-old Altmaier from Kempen defeated the battered Spaniard Jaume Munar 6:3, 6:0 in 85 minutes. In the quarterfinals, Altmaier now meets the Croatian Borna Coric. The Warsteiner Struff prevailed in the evening against the Argentinian Pedro Cachin 7: 6 (9: 7), 6: 7 (7: 9), 6: 3 and now faces the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas or the Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles do.
Zverev without consistency in his game
For Zverev, on the other hand, the tournament is over. Another relatively early exit, as so often since his return after a long injury break due to a serious foot injury at the French Open last year. In the world rankings, Zverev will drop out of the top 20 for the first time since April 2017, but the realization hurts even more: he cannot currently compete with an exceptional talent like Alcaraz.
It was Zverev's goal to play his "best tennis" again in the clay court season. He also saw himself on the right path there. The Hamburg native said in mid-April shortly before the start of the ATP tournament in Munich, where he lost his opening match, that he would only be "one or two percent missing from absolute top form".
Zverev's game lacks consistency. Physically, he seems to have recovered from the injury, but Zverev's mental strength isn't back yet. The chanceless appearance against Alcaraz should exacerbate the problem again.