One of the major storylines of the 2023 season has been the rivalry between Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic. Alexander Zverev has had a taste of both players excellent form across the American hard-court swing.
Having fallen in two tight sets to eventual Djokovic at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last month, the German was beaten in straight sets by Alcaraz on Wednesday as his promising US Open run was ended at the quarter-final stage. Zverev was unable to identify a clear leader in terms of level within Alcaraz and Djokovic’s Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry but is in no doubt that the chasing pack has some work to do to catch the pair up.
“I played Novak in Cincinnati, I played Carlos here. I think they are very, very similar from the level of the game,” said Zverev in his post-match press conference at Flushing Meadows. “There are some things that Novak does better; there are some things that Carlos does better.
“I think they are at a level of their own at the moment. The other guys gotta catch up. That’s as simple as that.”
Alcaraz’s US Open Title Defence Moves Into Top Gear
Alcaraz delivered a top-class quarter-final display in New York to continue his US Open title defence in style, but Zverev’s challenge to the Spaniard was hampered from the second set onwards by a problem with his left glute.
“I was in the match the first set. I could have broken, it could have gone my way, it didn’t,” reflected Zverev. “Then the second set I felt something in my hamstring glute, left side. I couldn’t push off on my serve anymore. My serve speed was down quite a lot compared to the other days. Against him especially I needed a good serving day otherwise it would have been difficult.
“I think my biggest weapon was kind of taken away after the first set and it’s difficult to even compete if you don’t have that.”
Zverev said that his physical struggle was not related to his lung-busting four-hour, 41-minute fourth-round triumph against Jannik Sinner. Despite his exit to Alcaraz in the last eight, the 26-year-old can reflect on another solid fortnight in a season during which he has made an increasingly impressive recovery following a serious ankle injury in 2022.
“I think we were both physically done after that match,” said Zverev, who leaves New York with a 42-21 record for the year, of the Sinner clash. “I thought I recovered quite well. Just looking at the facts, I think we finished at 1:30 at night. We played 4 hours, 40 minutes. For that I think I recovered quite okay. But today wasn’t enough to be competitive.”