© Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Getty Images

Alexander Zverev in action against Sebastian Baez at Roland Garros on Wednesday.

Zverev Saves MP In Epic Baez Comeback Win

2021 semi-finalist improves to 8-1 record in fifth sets at Roland Garros

Alexander Zverev’s Roland Garros hopes hung by a thread on Wednesday afternoon, but the third seed dug deep to prevail in an absorbing second-round battle against Sebastian Baez.

The third seed saved a match point when trailing 4-5, 30/40 in the fifth set against the 21-year-old Argentine Baez, but he held firm to complete a dramatic 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 victory in Paris.

Zverev was full of praise for Baez after his three-hour, 36-minute victory. “This is the worst he [Baez] will probably ever feel on a tennis court right now, this moment," said the German. "It was such an incredible match, and I know it just too well because I lost the US Open final from being two sets to love up.

"You always get better from it and I wish him nothing but the best. He’s an unbelievably great kid, and he’s going to do a lot of great things in this sport I think.”

ATP WTA Live App

Just as fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas had in his five-set win over Lorenzo Musetti on Tuesday night, Zverev was able to muster a mid-match turnaround to overcome a two-set deficit on Court Philippe Chatrier. The German struggled to find his peak level throughout, but his big serve and rasping backhand were the foundation for a stirring comeback.

“You just have to find a way," added Zverev when asked about the key to his revival. "You talk about mental strength, you talk about some players, the greats, Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal], Novak [Djokovic], they always find a way in the most difficult moments. That’s why they are who they are. I’m never going to be on their level, but I’m trying to get closer to them and it’s definitely something that you need to do.”

"It was a tough match today," reflected Baez in his post-match press conference. "I think I had many chances in the five sets, but Alexander is a good player and in the difficult moments he played maybe better than me. So I have to learn a lot of things [for] the future [from] this match.

"This is the best part, and I try to say to my coach. Maybe it's hard, but sometimes this is for learning and to be better in the future."

Zverev came into the match with a 5-0 record in second-round matches at Roland Garros, but that perfect record looked in danger early as the third seed struggled to find his top level in blustery conditions.

A Baez break of the Zverev serve in the opening game set the tone, as the Argentine came out fearlessly in just his third meeting with a Top 10 opponent. Another break followed in the fifth game as Baez charged to the first set, with Zverev struggling to adjust to the wind.

The Argentine continued to dictate play with his huge forehand into the second set, also deploying his drop shot to good effect. Zverev appeared to be lacking confidence and tried to power his way out of trouble, a tactic that led to double faults hindering his efforts to hold serve as Baez surged to a 4-0 lead.

After fending off three break points to hold for 1-4, however, the momentum in the match changed. Although it came too late to prevent the Argentine clinching the second set, renewed purpose from Zverev powered him to the third and fourth sets for the loss of just three games combined as he found some consistency in his groundstrokes.

Ukraine crisis relief

Even with the momentum going against him, Baez refused to roll over as the players exchanged breaks in a tense deciding set. The Argentine had his chance to clinch the match with the match point at 4-5 but was unable to return a big serve down the middle from Zverev, who then held his nerve to break himself and claim victory.

“I think that the forehand, even with the best players, is maybe the shot that gets a little bit more tight," said Zverev about his decision to target the Baez forehand when match point down. "If I serve with 210km to the forehand there is a bigger chance he will miss it on match point. He did, it worked out well.”

The win moves Zverev to a 20-6 record at Roland Garros, where he reached the semi-finals last year before falling to Tsitsipas. His third-round opponent in Paris will be Brandon Nakashima, after the American triumphed 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-2 over Tallon Griekspoor.

More stories like this in: