Former world No.2 Alexander Zverev continues to struggle on his return to the sport after a long injury layoff, with the German easily beaten in his latest match at the United Cup.
Zverev went down 6-1, 6-4 to world No.9 Taylor Fritz, his second loss in a matter of days.
Earlier in the tournament Zverev was beaten by Jiří Lehečka, 6-4, 6-2.
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It’s the first official tournament for Zverev since he suffered a serious ankle injury at the French Open in June.
The first set against Fritz lasted just 21 minutes, a sign of how far off the pace Zverev is.
“He’s in a rebuilding phase. He’s still searching for confidence, which is interesting because at the time he hurt himself he was playing the best tennis of his life,” Nine commentator Todd Woodbridge told Wide World of Sports.
Match Highlights: Taylor Fritz v Alexander Zverev
“He was close to getting to No.1 in the world, but the time away has put a little bit of doubt back into him.
“He doesn’t look completely comfortable moving around the court, but I think that’s just part of match play, he needs time to settle back in.”
The German’s troubles spell bad news for his Australian Open campaign, a tournament where he made the semi finals in 2020 and the quarter finals in 2021.
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“I think the match against Fritz would be a bit disappointing for him. It just shows where his confidence is at,” Woodbridge said.
“The beauty of the United Cup is he had at least two matches, but neither of them were anywhere near the level we’re used to seeing from him.
“He’s going to have to make some mental changes to go deep in Melbourne. I think it will be a big ask.”
Speaking after the loss to Lehečka, Zverev conceded his fitness was still a long way short of where it needs to be.
“I thought his ball-striking has been good, the issue is the serve,” Woodbridge explained.
“That has been the thing that has stood out. It was a little hard to watch at times.
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“All that he needs is to win a match or two. If he gets a draw in Melbourne where he can win a couple of matches, he can work his way into it and start to feel more normal.
“He’s always worked hard but his conditioning is still not where it needs to be, even with all the rehab he would have done. He needs time on court, and in Melbourne it’s best of five sets, so that will be a real test for him.”
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