Alexander Zverev opens up on his fight against Type 1 diabetes

Alexander Zverev in action in Wimbledon
Alexander Zverev in action in Wimbledon (PC: X)

Alexander Zverev did well to open up at Wimbledon, court-side, just after his thunderous win against Cameron Norrie to enter the fourth round on Saturday. The fourth seed put on a display of powerful serving which was scintillating to watch, despite a knee niggle.

What came as a surprise, later was Zverev talking about his travails as a Type 1 diabetic, which means he needs to take insulin injections regularly. From the age of four, Alexander Zverev has faced high sugar problems and doctors had put him on insulin. The message from doctors, almost two decades ago, was to forget tennis and not compete in such a hard sport.

The youngster did not listen, not even to his parents attempts at stopping him, initially. Today, at 27, Zverev is a role model in many ways, tennis wise and as someone who has battled diabetes. For those unaware, given the strict rules in tennis, anyone needing insulin shots had to take a toilet break and go off court. This was getting very hard for Zverecv, as he could only ask for two breaks.

It was only from the French Open in 2023, has there been a change in rules and Zverev can take the insulin shot, court side. At a time when every sport is fighting doping, restricting insulin injections can mean a player has to stop competing or suffer a “high sugar or “low sugar” episode, which means he will be wrecked.

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Alexander Zverev celebrates (Photo: Aus Open/X)

For the French Open to allow these insulin injections from 2023 was path breaking. After the win against Norrie at Wimbledon, when Zverev spoke to the court-side anchor, he opened up on his journey and how he has overcome hesitancy to talk about a medical problem. He deserves no sympathy, really, for the challenge is about taking the injections on time. The insulin intake (injections) cannot be defined, as a match duration varies. The players, usually, bite a piece of chocolate or nibble at a banana during changeover. In the case of Zverev, he sucks a sugary jelly. Then again, he has to load “sugar” so that he can last a long contest or collapse on court.

It is this art of managing the sugar “highs and lows” which Zverev spoke of on Saturday. The common fan may still wonder what this medical jargon is, but Zverev explained on the importance of an insulin jab at the correct time. It is a matter of life and death. Someone like Wasim Akram played the last part of his international career, dependent on insulin shots. So, whether it is a cricketer or any other athlete the fight to be allowed injections near the field of play is so important.

Zvereve runs a diabetes foundation in Germany, since so many kids are afflicted by it at a young age. His message to all at Wimbledon was “be brave and play sport.” Just to rewind, the guardians of tennis had told Zverev injections on-site looked “weird” even a year ago, before the rules changed.

“They (ATP) said it looks weird when I do this on court. But this is not a clever take because if I don’t do it, my life will be in danger. But they said it looks weird,” said Zverev. “I said, ‘What does it look like? That I’m doping?’ This argument makes no sense.” Such conversations from the past show how Zverev had to fight to live and fight to play tennis. Today, a leading diabetologist like Dr V Mohan, who runs India’s biggest research foundation, feels what Zverev has revealed is motivational for youngsters and all those who want to play sport can do it, despite being dependent on insulin injections. Sadly, Type 1 diabetes was made to look like a disability. Zverev has rubbished all that and shown the way, without hesitancy at Wimbledon.

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