Alexander Zverev returns from horror injury: ‘When I walked for the first time, I was happy like a little kid’

Shahida Jacobs
Alexander Zverev thumbs up

It wasn’t a competitive match, but Alexander Zverev was back on a tennis court on Thursday and he enjoyed every moment of it following his long injury layoff.

Six months after he suffered a sickening injury during the French Open semi-final, Zverev finally made his comeback at the Diriyah Tennis Cup, beating Dominic Thiem in straight sets in the first round of the exhibition tournament.

Back in June, the German rolled his ankle and tore ligaments during last-four match against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. He was forced to undergo surgery and missed Wimbledon, the US Open and the Davis Cup Finals.

And on Thursday he at long last set foot court again as he faced off against Thiem in Saudi Arabia.

“I’ve missed all this for the last seven months,” he told Eurosport before his 10-8, 10-7 win over the Austrian. “It was not an easy time for me. I’ve missed the tennis tour, the tournaments. I’ve missed interviews, I’ve really missed everything.

“I’m just happy to be back on the court and with the best players in the world here. Just to be back in this atmosphere, this air. I’m happy to be back on the pitch. Hopefully, things will start going right for me here again.

“The injury taught me to be more patient and to appreciate the little things. When I walked for the first time, I was happy like a little kid. When I was able to walk for the first time, it felt like I had won the biggest tournament in the world.

“Things you could do all your life were suddenly special to you. That’s the huge difference between after the injury and before the injury.

“When you’re on this tennis circuit, you play 11 months a year and you’re at a new tournament every week, you travel every week. You forget to appreciate that you’re this tennis player in the first place, playing in front of 20,000 spectators in the biggest stadiums in the world, and you’re doing the sport that you love more than anything.

“You forget all that a little bit. Then when you’re out for seven months with an injury where you really can’t do anything, you start to think a little bit about how much you actually miss it. Honestly, I missed it incredibly. After the injury, I know even less about what I would do without tennis.”

Up next for Zverev is Daniil Medvedev, who had a bye in the first round, while the winner of that clash will take on either Andrey Rublev or Stan Wawrinka in the semi-final. Wawrinka beat Matteo Berrettini 5-10, 10-4, 10-6

In the top section of the draw, Cameron Norrie defeated Nick Kyrgios 10-6, 10-6 to set up a quarter-final match against top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas with the winner facing either Hubert Hurkacz or Taylor Fritz in the last four.

The first singles matches were tie-breaks to 10 with the remainder of the tournament best of three sets.