Tennis Prose



The Agony of the Zverev Brothers

Serena and Venus are okay with competing against each other. They have done it enough times as professionals and their sisterhood is still intact. There were no public explosions or controversies.

The Melzers, Harrisons, Granollers are also still examples of family tennis dueling, brotherly love.

But the agony of the Zverev brothers playing each other seems to be a bit more acute, as younger brother Alexander told me a couple of years ago at the Citi Open when I asked his most painful moment of his career.

“The worst experience of my career was playing my brother (Mischa). You have to win the point…but then you’re playing your brother and you don’t want to win,” he said.

Fortunately for the Zverevs, they’ve only had to play twice so far, first at a Futures second round of qualifying in Dallas in 2012 and then the first round of qualifying at Houston in 2014 (both won by older brother). Today in Washington at Citi Open they will meet as pros for the third time.

When they previously played in Texas, the Zverev brothers, both were unproven in the ATP and desperate to make their marks. Alex was 15 and 17, Mischa was 24 and 26.  When you’re young and unaccomplished, every match is important. Mischa won both, 60 61 in Dallas and 75 46 32 (ret) in Houston.

Today, the Zverev brothers have to do it again, on center court at the Citi Open. A lot has changed since their last meeting four years ago. Now Alex is 21 and ranked 3 in the world, Mischa is 30 (turns 31 in three weeks) and ranked 42.

Alex is the defending champion with points to defend. Mischa is trying to improve his ranking  to where it was a year ago – 25 in the world.

Playing tennis is usually a great joy for all players but today in Washington there won’t be any joy or happiness when brothers Alex and Mischa pull out there Head racquets to do battle. In Alex’s own words, it will be the “worst experience” of his career.





  • Hartt · August 5, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    I haven’t seen their practices because they take place in Montreal, but both guys talk about how fiercely competitive they are, and people who have seen the practices concur. And there are consequences for the loser. For example, when Shapo lost a practice match to Felix he had to wear a crazy, touristy sombrero around the National Training Centre.

    The two youngsters are a doubles team at the Rogers Cup. They face Djokovic/Anderson in the first round. I think they have a shot, because Denis and Felix have played as a team, winning the junior USO, as well as taking part in other tourneys together.

    Felix turns all of 18 this coming Wed. It would be great if he had a good run, but he, his team, and Tennis Canada are more focused on the big picture. They are working towards future success rather than being overly concerned about him having big results right now.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 5, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    They practiced together again yesterday and took a photo after looking like two brothers, they are as close as any two ATP players are if not closer. Clearly the best ATP bromance going right now. Other ATP bromances: Paire and Stan, Kyrgios and Murray, Querrey and Isner, Querrey and Johnson, Sock and Kyrgios.

  • Hartt · August 5, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Yes, they are extremely close. I love the way they are fierce competitors but still sing the praises of the other, instead of being jealous.

    I usually go to Rogers Cup qualies but the heat and humidity are so brutal right now that they are issuing heat warnings. I would have loved to have seen the 2 youngsters practice.

    Tom Tebbutt tweeted that the Monday night lineup has changed. Instead of Felix vs Pouille it will be Pospisil vs Coric, much to my disappointment.

  • Hartt · August 5, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Sascha just had an easy win over Alex, 6-2, 6-4. As the score indicates, Sascha creamed the young Aussie in the first set. Alex did battle hard and made the 2nd set a bit closer, but he never really bothered Sascha, who was simply at a higher level.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 5, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Hartt, you get the doubles match of Shapo/FAA vs. Noavk/Ando it looks like.

    Also Centre Court has a showdown between Jack Sock and Medvedev. The Russian cruised to two straight-set wins in the qualies and he will be favored in this one.

    Oddly enough Denis Kudla was eligible for a SE slot in Toronto since he was on the D.C. sked Saturday yet he did nt take it. Same goes for DeMinaur – don’t know why.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 5, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    So I watched that San Jose final – ESPN couldn’t have asked for a worse matchup and worse result. I am sure Dodgeball beat this match in the ratings.

    Sakkari was a mess. Her coach tried to calm her down but she was snapping at him and was defeated from the start. Unforced error after unforced error. Even ol’ Duke thinks he could have beaten her.

    Terrible display of tennis but nice win for Buzanescu, who hardly had a murderer’s row in beating Vickery, Anisomova, Tomljanovic and Mertens before this lopsided final. She dropped sets against all those foes but Tomljanovic. Also bounces back from a tough loss in her native Bucharest Open in her last event.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 5, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Wonder why ESPN chose San Jose instead of Wash DC? Zverev could be ready to Lendl the US Open.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 5, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    Scoop, D.C. negotiated its own contract with Tennis Channel so ESPN couldn’t air it. It’s why the Citi Open is not part of the U.S. Open series.

    ESPN has rights to the U.S. Open Series which includes San Jose.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 5, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    Also nobody here has commented on the great Kuznetsova winning D.C. and surviving four match points against her. She is a certain HOF and a legend of the game that gets less recognition than any great player in the history of the sport.

    Poor Venus meanwhile. She had fallen off the face of the earth after a spectacular 2017. I really believe she would have won the Open had she survived Sloane.

  • catherine · August 6, 2018 at 1:51 am

    Duke – I’d have commented on Kuznetsova but it was the middle of the night here and I don’t stay up that late for anything now, except maybe the end of the world.

    Good win for K but Vekic also had a decent tournament. I used to think she was a terrible player.

    I continue to think it’s a bad mistake splitting East and West women’s events. Top players tend to avoid both and they are rarely a worthy showcase for the game. WTA tournaments need a solid draw and that’s not going to mean Serena or Venus for much longer.

    I’m still wondering what’s happening with Osaka. Bad W’don and then out in Washington. And Sloane ?

    I’m so glad Sascha won that match. Not going to say why though.

  • catherine · August 6, 2018 at 2:11 am

    Noticed Simona playing doubles in Montreal with Begu. But I bet Halep drops out if she goes far in singles.

    Hartt – can you see Denis and Felix continuing to play doubles if they get really competitive in singles ? I think not.

  • catherine · August 6, 2018 at 2:44 am

    Had a look at highlights of Vekic/Kutzenova – lively match with attacking play from both sides, and graceful net exchange. Pity there was hardly anyone there to see it.

  • Hartt · August 6, 2018 at 6:43 am

    I watched the first two sets of Vekic vs Kuznetsova but simply reached my tennis saturation point. Although Kuz won the 2nd set I thought Vekic had played better overall and was very suprised to read later that Kuz won the decider so handily. But that is what a wily vet can do,

  • Hartt · August 6, 2018 at 6:49 am

    The big concern today is the weather. The forecast is for rain and possible thunderstorms. At least the matches start at 11:00 am so they should get some in before the rain. Am still hoping we luck out and avoid any rain. After the weather played havoc with the Citi Open it seems unfair for the same thing to happen in Toronto.

    As far as Denis and Felix playing doubles together, I think they enjoy it and would like to team up more often. When Felix has a high enough ranking to play in the same tourneys as Denis I imagine they will continue to play doubles together. But not at the expense of their singles if that became an issue.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 6, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Seems like Shapo has taken a bit of a nosedive of late. He’s 3-7 in his last ten matches. It’s interesting that now Tsitsipsas is now only one ranking spot below him, 26 and 27, and both are 19, but Shapo’s eight months younger, and both have one-handed backhands.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 6, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Right now is on the Dimitrov course, needs a few big scalps soon. This is a big tournament for Shap and Felix, if both go do meekly, changes should be made. Who is coaching Felix now?

  • Hartt · August 6, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Felix’s coaches are Fred Fontang and Guillaume Marx. Usually one or the other travels with him, occasionally both. As you know, I am a big fan of both Denis and Felix, but they are both very young, so I’m not expecting huge results from them just yet. They are both still developing their games, and are preparing for the long term. They need coaches who can put in a lot of work with them on a daily basis.

    A plus for Felix is that both his coaches are French speakers. Although the youngster speaks excellent English, he has talked about missing speaking French when on the Tour.

  • Joe Blow · August 6, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    What happened to everyone’s ball toss? Anyone else notice? Gilbert went off last week saying it’s becoming me more prevalent, and there should be a penalty. Don’t know if I agree, but it’s getting weird. Not as bad as that Czech guy, whose name escapes me, against Agassi, where it looked liked AA was gonna go crazy. VW is good for 2 bad tosses every service game. Watched Babis for 5 minutes, and she has had multiple bad tosses

  • catherine · August 6, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    It’s gamesmanship. No excuses. You don’t need a partner for serving practice.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 6, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Geez, Sock is playing brutal tennis. Just lost first set to Medvedev 6-3. He can’t get a return in the court even though the Russian was missing most of his first serves. Forget hitting a backhand passing shot; he’s lucky if he can get Medvedev to volley. No male player hits more drop shots than Sock. He seems to be pulling his game and strategy out of his backwards cap.

  • catherine · August 6, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    Joe B -ball toss – could be incompetence as well. Babos lost to Georges in and Julia banged down 17 aces. Haven’t checked but I doubt she had a problem with her toss.

  • Tom Sawyer · August 6, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Joe Breeze — Karol Kucera I think is the name you are looking for. I was at that match and Kucera was hitting so many moonballs, at some point Agassi started hitting moonballs back, shaking his head during rallies..didn’t phase Kucera a bit. Brook Shields was going nuts. Agassi lost…I may have cried myself to sleep that night.

  • Chazz · August 6, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    Dan, Sock was correct to be drop shotting a lot because his hands are among the best in tennis. He also went to the net a lot in the second set and it paid off. His ground strokes and serve are killing him now so he needs to mix it up anyway. I thought it was pretty miraculous that he trailed a set and a break and then broke back and won 4 games to win the 2nd set. Still, his overall level of play is nowhere near what it was last year.

  • Chazz · August 6, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    Also thought it was pretty funny that Sock was down a break in the 2nd, took a bathroom break, then came back and won 4 straight games. So Medvedev took a bathroom break after the 2nd set.

  • Jg · August 6, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    I saw part of the first set, Sock looked like he was playing scared, he had no ump! No swagger, looked like he was scared to lose, not hitting out, I doubt he could win a challenger now. Remember a few years ago Querrey played a few challengers and he was untouchable, I doubt Sock would be untouchable, he needs to forget about winning losing and just play out, will have better results.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 6, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Sock’s confidence in singles is totally gone, you have to wonder at this point if the breakup with that gf really messed up his head. Because stunning breakdowns like this don’t happen without some kind of stimulus.

  • Chazz · August 6, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    I don’t know Scoop. He was doing poorly in singles well before the breakup. Hard to believe he only has 5 singles wins all year.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 6, 2018 at 11:46 pm


    You have some sketchy ideas like playing Mixed Doubles will help a player’s singles game and breaking up with girlfriends will hurt a player’s game. These guys for the most part are devoid of being affected by relationship breakups because they’re so full of themselves they don’t let girls/women get into their the way mere mortals do.

    And Mixed Doubles…no, I won’t even go there. I had recorded the match, but left off when the rain came and even when I fast-forwarded I couldn’t get back to the Sock-Medvedev match.

    Now I see Sock lost again which is amazing to me because he had break opportunities in the first game of the third set and missed out on them, but Medvedev’s forehand was like the worst pro forehand I think I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe Sock didn’t pick it apart like he was doing in the second set.

    But he didn’t apparently, and he lost his seventh straight match in a row. Think of that 7 in a row from a guy who started the year Top 10. You’re right Scoop, that breakup must’ve really messed with his mind, but gf was with him in Delray, remember, when Sock couldn’t beat Opelka.

    Sock’s problem is his forehand which is his money shot, misses way too often. He mis-hit a number of them today. Also, his serve is not a big ace machine that’s why it’s better for doubles and Sock’s backhand is just so-so. Sometimes his slice floats like an amateur player’s slice.

    Sock’s in deep sh__!When you can’t beat Medvedev who’s north of no. 65 in the rankings, you’ve got some serious problems to resolve.

  • Hartt · August 6, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    I went to the Rogers Cup tonight to see Milos vs Goffin and Vasek vs Coric. Am too tired to write much now, except to say that Milos played great. It was a pleasure to watch him in this form. Goffin did not stand a chance tonight.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 7, 2018 at 12:31 am

    Yes Sock should have broken to start the 3rd. Then the weather delay happened and then he fell apart as usual.

    Another early start for Kyrgios, this time vs. Stan. Will he again fail to show up?

    Here is Agassi making fun of Kucera – one of the memorable nights at the Open…

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 7, 2018 at 12:41 am

    This Edmund-Schwartzman score is insane. 2 and 1? 58-32 in total points. Schwartzman faced no break points and Edmund won 56 percent of his first serves.

    What happened? This sheds new light on Murray beating Edmund as not any indication of Murray’s ability.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 7, 2018 at 12:53 am

    One more note – the 36-year-old Paolo Lorenzi can’t win a match on the Tour this year.

    But he captured his 20th Challenger title in Poland this past weekend. Lorenz specializes in dominating at the Challenger level in order to artificially boost his ranking. He has made it an art.

    Only Rendy Lu (29) and Dudi Sela (22) have won more Challenger singles titles.

  • catherine · August 7, 2018 at 1:45 am

    Serena has indicated that she will not play again until the US Open. Lengthy Instagram on her struggles to be a mother etc. I’m wondering if her focus, dedication etc is gone and won’t be back. For very different reasons she finds herself in a similar situation to Murray.

    I’m also thinking that in the back of her mind is the need for justifying her W’don loss. Certainly more important to her than losing to Konta in San Jose.

  • Hartt · August 7, 2018 at 8:12 am

    A bit more about Milos. He served well, as you’d expect, with 13 aces and winning all of his first serves. But what was more impressive – he returned well, had good groundies, and made some good plays at the net. He hit with so much power and accuracy that the crowd gasped several times. There was just one tense moment, when he was serving for the first set and was down 0-40. The crowd willed him to win that game and, with some excellent serving, he did.

    I got a cheap ticket for today, and will use it more for a grounds pass. There are some big names on Centre Court, including Novak and Kyrgios, but I am especially keen on seeing Khachanov and Tsitsipas. Then, finally, Felix, who is playing Pouille in the last afternoon match. I will be sitting a long way from the court, but am still excited to see the youngster playing live.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 7, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Lorenzi has had a very good career. The first time I saw him was at Sarasota Challenger five years ago when it was at Longboat Key Club, he looked a touch on the slovenly side, like some guy you’d see at the public courts but don’t let messy appearances and long hair and a ragged beard distract you. He’s had a lot of very good wins. Heard through the grapevine he’s looking to move to Sarasota.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 7, 2018 at 10:08 am

    Hartt, we are all looking forward to your observations…

  • Tom Sawyer · August 7, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Is Lucas Pouille the french Jack Sock? Btw, a Pouille Fume 2015 is an excellent vintage, highly recommend.

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