Alexander Zverev has to give up his semifinals at the French Open against Rafael Nadal due to a serious injury. Before that he played an incredible match, showed that he has what it takes to be a Grand Slam champion. What is remembered above all is his grand gesture. A comment.

He could have just stayed in the dressing room, crying, screaming, raging, arguing and just being frustrated that his incredible French Open had to end like this. Alexander Zverev was well on his way to pushing clay court god Rafael Nadal to his limits in his living room. But then the surface stopped him.

Sascha, as Zverev has been called since childhood, collapsed, screamed in pain and was wheeled into the Roland Garros changing rooms. It was immediately clear to observers that the match would be over. But Zverev came back again – and how!

Supported on crutches without a shoe on his injured right foot, he limped back onto the pitch, gave up the match to the referee himself and hugged his opponent Nadal. At the most bitter moment of his career, when he seemed on his way to shake the Spanish clay court god, Zverev shows true greatness with this gesture.

Of course, the inclined viewer feels sorry for Zverev when he tragically retires from what is probably the best Grand Slam tournament of his career so far. But in my feelings after the match, there is something else that many tennis fans don’t know when they think of the currently best German tennis player: sympathy.

With his performance at the French Open, Zverev opened the hearts of fans because he showed remarkable maturity, both on and off the pitch. While he showed himself to have nerves of steel like never before on the red ashes of Roland Garros, never quarreled and reacted coolly to setbacks like Roger Federer, he finally reached the people in the stands and in front of the TV sets.

Before the match against super talent Carlos Alcaraz, Zverev had complained that the Spaniard was preferred and seemed to be falling back into old patterns. But his response on the field was simply impressive. The German played like a young god so the crowd only became a factor in the third set, the only one won by Alcaraz, as they cheered for the Spaniard. Zverev’s post-match humility regarding his performance earned him even more respect from the crowd.

Of course it was different against Nadal, no player is as popular at the French Open as the Spaniard. But here, too, Zverev earned respect because he finally acted as an adult and met the living tennis legend on an equal footing, both athletically and personally.

When Zverev was wheeled out of the arena, he got a standing ovation – for his performance, not just out of pity. I too stood in front of the television and applauded sadly. When the German came back to give up himself, this applause swelled. This small gesture from Zverev was very big, worthy of a real champion.

Even if the German was eliminated in the most bitter way in terms of sport, he still achieved a lot in this tournament. Zverev showed true greatness in his most bitter moment and proved he has the heart of a champion. Zverev will only realize later that this can be worth more than his first Grand Slam title. That he will soon win such a title seems closer than ever.

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