Zverev on a roll but plays down US Open chances

CINCINNATI • Alexander Zverev will take an 11-match winning streak into the US Open after adding the Cincinnati Masters title to his Olympic gold medal on Sunday.

The German may not have a better opportunity to claim his maiden Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows with two of tennis' "Big Three" - Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer - absent through injury.

But one of them and on current form, the biggest test, still stands in Zverev's way when the US Open, the fourth and final Major of the year, starts next Monday.

Despite upsetting Novak Djokovic in Tokyo to ruin the Serb's bid to become the first men's player to win the "Golden Slam", he still rates the world No. 1 as the favourite to take the hard-court title.

World No. 4 Zverev defeated Russian Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-3 in less than an hour last Sunday to win his second Masters 1000 tournament of the season and fourth title this year. He came up just short of landing his first Major when he lost last year's final in New York to Austria's Dominic Thiem but revealed his preparations this season had been very different.

"I was still finding my game during the US Open last year, but it worked well for me," the 24-year-old said. "But I'm looking forward to what's in it for me this year, and we'll see how it is once I arrive there.

"I'm looking forward to it because I know where I stand, I know how I'm playing, and I hope I can continue the work and hopefully, play even better in New York."

Should Zverev triumph, he will become only the second men's player born in the 1990s to win a Slam after Thiem.

However, Djokovic, who will be chasing history as the first man to win a calendar Slam since Rod Laver in 1969, is a considerable roadblock to those ambitions, even though he has not played since his Tokyo exit.

Zverev, the 2018 ATP Finals champion, said: "I do think that he's still the favourite. He's going to be playing incredible tennis there. He's going to be fresh, and I think there are also other guys that are in very good form.

"Let's see how it goes... I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I have to find my rhythm in New York as well."

While men's tennis is still largely dominated by its veteran stars, the women's draw is more open.

There have been first-time winners in 10 of the 17 Slams since the 2017 Australian Open. But there are still some hot favourites and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty will head to the US Open in peak form after ending Swiss wild card Jil Teichmann's brave run with a 6-3, 6-1 win in the Cincinnati final.

The Wimbledon champion will be bidding for her third Slam and first on a hard court after humbling Major winners Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Barbora Krejcikova en route to her victory.

Barty will have the edge in New York with defending champion and world No. 2 Naomi Osaka lacking match practice and facing question marks over her mental state since her French Open pullout due to depression.

"It's been an awesome week. I felt like with each match we're getting progressively better and better in most parts of my game," the Australian said after clinching her WTA Tour-leading fifth title of the season. "We're just excited we've got matches under our belt in tough conditions."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2021, with the headline 'Zverev on a roll but plays down US Open chances'. Subscribe