Alexander Zverev posted a screenshot of his negative test for the coronavirus on his social media feed on Monday, putting to rest fears that he played his fourth-round match at the French Open while infected by COVID-19.
Those concerns were triggered by Zverev's own admission that he was hampered by a fever and respiratory difficulties following his loss to Jannik Sinner on Sunday.
"I wanted to update everyone that I have again tested negative for COVID," Zverev wrote. "I wasn't 100% yesterday and will now take a few days to recover."
In his quiet time, Zverev will also undoubtedly mull over the whys and wherefores of another year gone by without a breakthrough win at a Grand Slam event. That success has been predicted for him for years, but it remains an elusive dream -- one that turned into a nightmare when Zverev surrendered an enormous lead, came within two points of winning and still lost the recent US Open final to Dominic Thiem.
"I think I'm in a good way," Zverev, 23 and seeded No. 6 at Roland Garros, insisted in Paris after his most recent loss. He was referring to his three strong finishes at the majors (Wimbledon was canceled due to the pandemic) but also to his new coaching arrangement with David Ferrer, who retired as a player recently but was always respected as one of the most diligent and determined pros on the ATP Tour.
"There is still a lot of work that needs to be done," Zverev added. "I think there is still a lot of things that I can do better than I am doing. But, yeah, in general I think I'm on the right path."
That trail may lead to the major mother lode, but so far it has been marked by more twists and turns than anyone might have anticipated when Zverev exploded on the scene. He won two sub-Slam ATP Masters 100 events and rocketed to No. 4 in the rankings in 2017, before he turned 21. But despite establishing himself firmly in the top echelon, he struggled to live up to his reputation -- and ranking -- at majors.
This strange year has been his best yet in terms of Grand Slam results, but it has also been marked by heartbreak, frustration and volleys of criticism.
Zverev got off to a great start at the Australian Open, where he reached his first Grand Slam semifinal, losing in four tough sets to Thiem. Zverev played just two more matches before the pandemic hit and the ATP Tour went into lockdown. His next appearance was on the Adria Tour, a Novak Djokovic enterprise that ended after the completion of just one event in Belgrade when a number of players -- including Djokovic -- tested positive for COVID-19.
Djokovic, Zverev, and others came under heavy criticism for failing to observe social distancing (they were filmed dancing, shirtless as well as maskless, in a crowded Belgrade nightclub) and ignoring other health protocols as the ill-fated tour got underway.
Zverev tested negative for the coronavirus after that episode. He apologized on social media, vowing to self-isolate. Just days later, though, a video surfaced of Zverev and other revelers ignoring social distancing and mask protocols at a French beach club. Zverev was bombarded with criticism. Fellow pro Nick Kyrgios wrote an Instagram post critical of Zverev, saying: "How selfish can you be?"
Tennis resumed with the "double-in-the-bubble" in New York, where Zverev advanced to the final of the US Open without playing his best tennis. After watching him advance to the semifinals while playing below his ability, ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert said of Zverev: "I saw something in him today that's big for him. It was the kind of match that a lot of guys lose. It was ugly, but he won."
The subsequent loss in the US Open final was a devastating blow to Zverev, but he had other concerns on his mind during the postmatch trophy presentations. While thanking his parents for their role in his career, Zverev choked up. He unsuccessfully fought back tears as he explained, "[My parents] were there with me for every tournament. But my dad and mother tested positive [for the coronavirus] before the tournament and couldn't have gone [to New York] with me. I miss them. This is tough."
Zverev later announced that neither parent had exhibited symptoms of the virus.
Zverev's last chance at a major evaporated in the chilly, damp air of Paris in October on Sunday. Once the poster boy for the ATP's enormously popular "Next Gen" campaign touting the young, most likely successors to the game's Big Three, Zverev freely admitted that time has slipped away.
"They are a Next Generation," Zverev said, referring to players like Sinner and other promising 21-and-under pros, like Sebastian Korda. "I'm not Next Generation anymore. I'm 23 years old now. I'm past that."
Zverev still has plenty of time to bag a major title, perhaps more than one. This may turn out to be a pivotal year in that quest. He's destined to remember it for a long time. Hopefully, he'll recall the good bits along with the bad.