Game Plan Goes South, But Zverev Finds Path To Victory
Third seed Alexander Zverev came through a tricky test on Monday as he began his quest for his first major title with a 7-6(3), 6-1, 7-6(1) victory against Daniel Altmaier to reach the second round at the Australian Open.
The German showed glimpses of his best tennis on Rod Laver Arena as he fired 53 winners against his countryman, but he had to be patient as he rallied from a break down in the third set to eventually advance after two hours and 38 minutes in their first ATPHead2Head meeting.
“Not much went to plan today to be honest except that I won,” Zverev said in his on-court interview. “But that is how it is sometimes. It is the first round of a very long tournament and you are not always going to play your best tennis. It was a good match for me to get into the tournament and hopefully the next round will be better.”
Zverev has been in dominant form since Wimbledon last year, holding a 36-5 record in that time. The World No. 3 captured tour-level titles in Cincinnati and Vienna and also triumphed at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin in the second half of the season. However, a Grand Slam trophy still eludes the 24-year-old.
The 19-time tour-level titlist, whose best result in Melbourne was a run to the semi-finals in 2020, will next face John Millman after the Australian moved past Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in two hours and 52 minutes.
In a tight first set, Zverev was made to work hard and show patience as Altmaier fended off three set points on serve at 4-5, saving the first in epic fashion as he outlasted Zverev in a lung-busting 33 shot rally. However, the third seed’s pressure told in the tie-break as he raised his level, sealing the set with a forehand winner that was set up by a deep backhand return.
Zverev then strengthened his grip on the match at the start of the second set, breaking twice to move 4-0 ahead as he sat deep behind the baseline and soaked up Altmaier's groundstrokes. After closing out the set in 30 minutes, the 24-year-old then had a lapse of concentration as he lost serve for the first time in the match at 2-2 in the third set.
However, Zverev quickly regrouped to break back, but he was forced to a tie-break after Altmaier saved four match points on serve at 5-6. Zverev was dominant in the breaker though with his heavy groundstrokes to secure a straight-sets win.
Zverev is making his seventh appearance in Melbourne and has now reached the second round six years in a row. Aged 24, Zverev is aiming to become the youngest Grand Slam men’s singles champion since a then 24-year-old Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open title in 2012.
The Tokyo Olympics singles gold medalist is also bidding to become the fifth German man to win a major trophy and the first since Boris Becker triumphed in Melbourne in 1996. Zverev's best result at a slam came at the US Open in 2020, when he reached the final (l. to Thiem).