The future may be in the hands of the next generation of ascendant men’s tennis players, but that future is not yet quite here was the message sent by Rafael Nadal to 19-year-old German Alexander Zverev in sending the youngster off the Rod Laver Arena Courts to the exit of the Australian Open.
It took five sets, and in one of those delicious twists the sports world serves up with less frequency than those of us more advanced in years would prefer, it seemed as though Nadal’s stamina was the superior of the two.
The match seemed to belong to the powerful Zverev at the outset, as the hulking, yet coordinated 198 cm giant used a prodigious display of power tennis to rip through the first set six games to four.
Not to make 30-year-old Nadal, a 14 times grand slam winner, seem ancient, but he has been dinged over the past several years and has had difficulty producing his best tennis, yet he showed the tenacity that has defined his career and came back from a two sets to one deficit to dispatch Zverev 4 – 6, 6 – 3, 6 – 7 (5 – 7), 6 – 3, 6 – 2.
Muscle cramps, specifically in his right leg, cut the young German down to size and he needed attention from the trainer after the fifth game of the fifth set, where he was broken and unable to sit down.