Alexander Zverev appeared in danger of suffering his second straight-sets loss of the year to Jiri Lehecka on Monday evening at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. But despite still searching for form as he continues his comeback from an ankle injury, the German found a way to rally past the in-form Czech 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 for a place in the second round.
“I didn’t start off the match very well. But these kind of matches are extremely important for me right now. I found a way to win and I’m sure that the next few matches I’ll be playing much better,” Zverev said. “Sometimes that’s what makes the best players… If you’re not playing well, you sometimes have to find a way to win.
“That’s what Roger, Rafa, Novak, Andy did throughout the last 20 years, so kind of trying to learn from them.”
Zverev entered the match with a 3-6 record on the season and without a victory against Top 50 opposition. But he maintained his composure against World No. 47 Lehecka, a powerful 21-year-old who blasted his way to the Australian Open quarter-finals and the semi-finals last week in Doha.
The two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion Zverev had high praise for last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up.
“I played him my first match back in Sydney and I had absolutely no chance whatsoever in that match, so I’m obviously happy that I have progressed, I have improved since then,” Zverev said. “He’s been playing amazing. He made it to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, beat incredible players last week. He could have won the tournament, lost to Andy with match points like so many did this year.
“I think he’s an incredible young player. Yes, he’s barely inside the Top 50, but my coach said by the end of the year he’s going to be Top 12, I think he’s going to be Top 20, definitely.”
Seventh-seeded Zverev will next play Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori or Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell.