After his brilliant performances in Madrid, Jan-Lennard Struff first took a little break with his family. Time with the two children instead of qualifying in Rome was on the agenda for the 33-year-old Warsteiner. "I'm looking forward to going home," said Struff.
For the next tournament of the Masters 1000 series in the Italian capital, he canceled after his final defeat in Madrid against the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. For Alexander Zverev, on the other hand, the tournament in the Eternal City in the next two weeks will be the next attempt on the way to old form.
Around three weeks before the start of the French Open, Zverev is still a long way from the condition in which he almost won his first Grand Slam tournament in Paris a year ago and took first place in the world rankings. Until a serious foot injury put him out of action for months.
Zverev's arduous path
The way back is still difficult. In Madrid there was a bitter 1: 6, 2: 6 smack against Alcaraz in the round of 16. In the Caja Mágica there was almost a class difference. Struff, on the other hand, had the Spanish dominator on the verge of defeat at times in the final. In the end, the Davis Cup pro ran out of strength, which he now wants to repeat at home.
After that, Struff wants to continue his upward trend. Because 28th place in the world rankings, to which he catapulted himself through his strong performances in Madrid, should not be the end. It is not unlikely that the Sauerland will soon even be the German number one. Because while Zverev has to defend many points in the ranking with his semifinals in Rome and Paris last year, Struff can play freely. Due to a long-lasting toe injury, he missed the entire phase on clay last year.
Overall, it was a year to forget for Struff. The Warsteiner was repeatedly stopped by injuries and then often lost in the first round on his return. At the end of 2022 he was still 150th in the world rankings. But thanks to hard work in preparation, Struff fought back, went the arduous way through numerous qualifications and was now rewarded in Madrid. "It's crazy, it was the best tournament of my career. That's good, I hope it gives me a push," said Struff on Sky.
Praise from the Davis Cup team boss
Davis Cup team boss Michael Kohlmann still has a lot of confidence in him this year. "He has proven again that he not only can beat the best regularly, but is still one of the top players in the world himself - just like before his injury," said Kohlmann, who will also play Struff at the French Open from April 28 May and the following tournaments have good chances. "So he has now put himself in a sensational starting position for the coming weeks and months."
It is good for German tennis that a second protagonist appears alongside Zverev. "When people like Struff shoot forward, the others realize: Okay, we can do that too," said Kohlmann, looking at players like Daniel Altmaier or Oscar Otte.
Zverev, on the other hand, continues to worry. The Olympic champion doesn't really want to get going after his long injury break. Decent performances alternate with weak performances like the one against Alcaraz in Madrid. In the ranking, Zverev slipped six positions to 22nd place - he was last that low in January 2017.