With the black federal eagle on his sleeve and a brightly lit "Germany" logo on his chest, Alexander Zverev completed his first training sessions in the drizzle in Munich.
Almost two years after his Olympic victory in Tokyo, the tennis pro tries to express his connection to Germany again and again. A tournament victory in front of a home crowd could probably convey the message best.
At the ATP event on the Iphitos facility, the native of Hamburg, who has lived in Monte Carlo for years and is playing his first match on Wednesday, wants to put himself back on the list of winners. It would be the third title in Munich and the first title since his comeback in December.
"Goals are still the same"
Zverev is still "one or two percent" missing from absolute top form, as he said himself. "But that will go back to 100 percent. I think I'm playing better every week," said the 25-year-old.
The German continues to dream of winning a Grand Slam tournament and becoming number 1. "The goals are still the same. I'm young enough to say they shouldn't change." However, one by one. The first stage goal is tournament victory in Munich.
Zverev is the crowd puller on the edge of the English Garden. Hundreds of tennis fans crowded around the small training ground when the former world number two got a first feel for the damp ground in warm functional clothing.
Whisper after a slide
One or the other accompanied Zverev's slide on the wet ground with a murmur. The moment when the Olympic champion sustained serious injuries at the French Open last year is still present in many people.
Zverev himself trusts his body again, especially his ankle - even if it took longer than the usual ten minutes to get used to the red ash this time. "After what happened, I needed a few days to feel comfortable. To slide. To be able to move freely. But now that's behind me," reported Zverev.
Only a tape on the ankle reminds the German of the injury he sustained in the semifinals of the French Open. A win in Munich would also be immensely important for his head.
Rainy first days reported
But Zverev's success in the Bavarian capital could also depend on the weather gods. Zverev likes to play aggressively. A style of play that is particularly effective in summer temperatures and dry pitches.
It's cool and wet in Munich - and therefore slow. "For me, the tournament depends a lot on the weather. I hope it improves a bit," he said, referring to the rainy first few days.
But even at lower temperatures, no player in the heavily occupied Munich field should be happy about a duel with Zverev. "He's back," teammate Oscar Otte acknowledged without envy. Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem, who is fighting to catch up after a long injury break, also predicted: "It looks like Sascha will be in top form at the French Open".
Gathering a bit of match practice is no longer enough for Zverev four months after his comeback. The German switched back to attack mode long ago. Zverev had the Russian Daniil Medvedev, number four in the world, on the verge of defeat in Indian Wells and Monte Carlo. "Of course I have to win matches like this again to say I'm 100 percent back," said the 25-year-old self-critically. At the smaller tournament in Munich, 98 percent could possibly be enough for the title.