Martina Navratilova questioned the battle-readiness of Alexander Zverev’s game after the German overcame Borna Coric 1-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (1), 6-3 on Tuesday to make his first US Open semi-final.
Tennis legend Navratilova was tough on the (former) ‘wunderkid,’ saying he couldn’t hope to beat the big guys and win a Grand Slam by playing ‘Pat-A-Cake’ tennis.
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“You can’t just hit the ball… okay, you’ll win a lot of matches against lesser players playing not to lose but you will not win majors that way,” 18-time singles major champion Navratilova said in an interview on Amazon Prime Video.
“You won’t beat the top players that way because they will be fired up and they’re too good for that. You can’t just play pat-a-cake,” she added.
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The 23-year-old Zverev didn’t take too kindly to the comment.
“Maybe she should look at my record against the big guys,” he said.
“Maybe she should look that I’m positive against Roger (Federer. Zverev has a 4-3 career win-loss record against Federer). Maybe she should look that I’ve beaten Novak (Djokovic) on multiple occasions in big matches and finals.
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“And I’m in the semifinals, and sometimes not playing your best and finding a way is more important than playing your best.
“But she’s a Grand Slam champion, as well, multiple Grand Slam champion, she’s respected, but her opinion right now does not matter to me.”
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The German, who is seen as the leader of ATP’s Next Gen, has won four Masters 1000 titles, including the season-ending Tour Finals in 2018, but had struggled in the majors until this year. Zverev made his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open and has followed it up with another last-four finish at the US Open.
He admitted though that he could play better.
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“Well, I just feel like I can still improve things. I feel like there is still things that I can do better,” he said. “But, look, I’m in the semifinals of a major. That means I’m not playing that bad. And I have beaten some good players.
“Obviously the draw is not going to get easier. Tomorrow evening there is four of us going to be left, and one of those four guys is going to be crowned a new Grand Slam champion on Sunday night.”
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With Djokovic’s disqualification, the top half of the draw has opened up and Zverev will take on Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta next.