Roger Federer’s former coach joins the ‘trash talk’ as he mocks Alexander Zverev’s Roland Garros claim

Shahida Jacobs
Alexander Zverev during a match
Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev’s recent claim that he had a strong feeling that he would have beaten Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros last year if he didn’t suffer a serious injury has drawn a response from Roger Federer’s former coach Ivan Ljubicic.

German Zverev and Nadal met in the semi-final of the French Open in June last year and the former gave as good as he got against the King of Clay.

After slugging it out for more than three hours with the score 7-6 (10-8), 6-6 in Nadal’s favour, misfortune struck Zverev as he suffered a horrific ankle injury after his foot got stuck in the ground. He left the court in a wheelchair and eventually retired.

Nadal went on to play in yet another final in Paris and he hammered Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in the showpiece match to lift a record-extending 14th French Open crown.

Zverev, meanwhile, missed the remainder of the 2023 season as he damaged several ligaments in his ankle that required surgery.

The 25-year-old feels it will always be a case of “what might have been” as when asked by Eurosport if he thought he would have won the match had he been able to continue, he replied: “For some reason I did. I don’t want to sound arrogant.

“Rafa is obviously the best player to ever play on that surface so you never know what happens. You never know what happens in that match as well. If I don’t get injured, of course I [could have lost] that match. Of course, he can go on to win his 14th Grand Slam.

“But I felt like I was playing my best tennis that I’ve ever played on that surface. So for some reason, I did feel like I could at least compete with him, which I was doing.

“The outcome of the match obviously, always depends on little factors as well. But I did feel like that could have been the week for me.”

Ljubicic, who coached 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer from 2016 until his retirement in 2022, got involved in “trash talk” on social media as he poked fun at Zverev’s comments.

“Nobody wants to sound arrogant but everyone is claiming to have almost won Roland Garros last year 😂. Love it!! On with trash talk!! 🌶️” the Croat tweeted.

Of course Ljubicic’s comments is based around the fact that Nadal rarely loses matches at Roland Garros as has a 97% winning record. He has won an incredible 112 matches and his only three defeats came in 2009 against Robin Soderling and against Novak Djokovic in 2015 and 2021.

But why the “trash talk”?

Trash talk has become a hot topic in tennis in recent weeks as some players believe tennis needs to move with the times and loosen some of the archaic regulations.

American pair Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff were first to say they wouldn’t mind trash-talking in tennis, but others like Daria Kasatkina is not in favour of it with the Russian saying: “For me, tennis is a bit different. I think it’s not going to work, in my opinion.”

Paula Badosa, meanwhile, would welcome banter.

“I’m in … traditionally tennis is polite, but why not? It’s a new generation, it could be a change, different and fun. But I don’t know if women could take that,” the Spaniard said.

It remains to be seen if the trash-talking will really take off in tennis.

READ MORE: Alexander Zverev admits he thought his career was over when he suffered gruesome ankle injury