Alexander Zverev would have liked to prevent the late-evening tennis party in Rotterdam. But after two hours of play, the Dutch fans cheered and celebrated local hero Tallon Griekspoor.

Germany’s number one left the field again after the knockout round with the disappointing realization: After the six-month injury break, it’s just not enough for two good games in a row. And to make matters worse, the 25-year-old’s neck hurt on Wednesday evening.

There was encouraging encouragement after Griekspoor’s 6: 4, 3: 6, 4: 6. “Alexander will definitely return to the top ten,” said the world number 61, who, in his own words, had to have his ankle treated throughout the day. Ultimately, Zverev was unable to benefit from this, although the Hamburger showed his usual fighting spirit and was convincing in the first set.

Not back in old shape yet

The neck problems, lack of match practice, lack of chances in the last round – all of these were ultimately reasons why Zverev promptly left the field as a loser after the opening success against the South Korean Kwon Soon Woo. That had already happened to him this year at the Australian Open and most recently in the German Davis Cup defeat against Switzerland. His conqueror there, Marc-Andrea Hüsler, was eliminated immediately in Rotterdam.

At the Davis Cup in Trier, Zverev had already suspected that the sporting troughs would probably continue for a while after his long break. “My goal is to play my best tennis again for the clay court season. If it comes earlier, all the better. But I think Monte Carlo is a realistic goal,” said the current 17th in the world rankings. The tournament in his adopted country will start in just under two months.

On the way there, Zverev will first open in Doha in the coming week. The Olympic champion travels to Qatar with a meager and not particularly confidence-inspiring record of two wins and five defeats this year.

Carlos Alcaraz, one of Zverev’s now younger rivals, had a much happier day. “It’s a great feeling to win again,” said the former world number one about the successful return after an injury break of more than three months. The 19-year-old Spaniard defeated the Serb Laslo Djere 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 at the tournament in Buenos Aires on clay.

Alcaraz missed the final stages of last year’s season due to abdominal and hamstring injuries. As a result, the US Open winner lost the top position in the world rankings again. “It’s been a long time for me without tournaments, without matches, just rest. Finally I have my first win in 2023,” said Alcaraz.