Boris Becker has great advice for Alexander Zverev ahead of Rafael Nadal showdown

Zverev plays Nadal in the first round of the French Open and Becker has some excellent advice for his countryman.
Andreas Rentz/GettyImages

Rafael Nadal versus Alexander Zverev's first-round match at the French Open seems like a heavyweight boxing match. Nadal is not in his best form, of course, while Zverev may be. But because we learned of the matchup several days before the actual match, there was enough time for the anticipation to build.

Will this be Nadal's final French Open? He has not made an official announcement. He could return to play again in 2025. There is no rule against someone implying that 2024 will be their final year playing professional tennis only to change their mind the following season.

Zverev has moved up to No. 4 on the ATP tour and is only 27 years old. He is also a fantastic clay-court player. This is why the matchup of Nadal versus Zverev is different than say, Nadal versus Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev is an excellent player but he is not at his best on clay so Nadal might still be the favorite. That is not the case with Zverev who recently won the clay-court Italian Open Masters 1000.

Boris Becker drops some knowledge on Alexander Zverev before his match with Rafael Nadal

Zverev's fellow German, Boris Becker, knows a thing about winning a Grand Slam. He won six majors in his career, though his best run at the French Open was making the semifinals three times. Becker had some advice for Zverev ahead of the Nadal match and the advice was not tactical but in how to mentally approach what could turn out to be such a momentous event. Zverev could end Nadal's last run at a tournament he has won an astounding 14 times.

Becker was one of the best players of his generation, of course, but he also had to play some all-time greats such as John McEnroe. The German had to develop his understanding that the moment itself or the specific player's name was not bigger than each moment of the actual match. His advice to Zverev mirrored that approach.

Everything about the French Open. Everything you need to know about the 2024 French Open. dark. Next

According to Tennis365, Becker said, "Something happens to Rafael Nadal when he walks through the gates at Roland Garros, he becomes stronger. A lot of players play the name and not the player. The guy comes on and he says, here is the 14-time champion Rafael Nadal, and instantly, you become smaller and Rafa becomes bigger. If he didn’t believe he is not ready to win the French Open again he would not play, so never ever bet against Rafael Nadal at the French Open. My tip for Zverev would be to play against the player and not against the myth."

The good bit for Zverev is this won't be the first time that Zverev will have played Nadal nor will this be the first time the German has played the Spaniard at Roland Garros. But there can be no mistaking that this might be one of the more important matches for either player in their careers. If Zverev wins, he might make a run for the French Open title. If Nadal wins, he will have continued his fading tennis career for at least one more match.

More tennis news and analysis: