Zverev Shakes Off Cilic In Madrid

Lajovic upsets fifth seed Ruud

Reigning Mutua Madrid Open champion Alexander Zverev began his title defence Wednesday with a tough three-set win against Marin Cilic on Manolo Santana Stadium.

The German made a slow start in the second-round meeting, but found his range as the match went on. He fired 11 aces and hit his heavy groundstrokes with more authority in the second and third sets to maintain his strong record against the Croatian, advancing 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

“I thought I played very well. I just lost focus in the first set,” Zverev said. “But I am happy with the win and I am happy to be though. Marin is a difficult opponent, especially with the altitude here, so I am happy with this match.”

Zverev, who also triumphed at the clay-court ATP Masters 1000 event in 2018, has now won his past seven matches against the 33-year-old, having lost their first encounter in Washington in 2015.

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Following his two-hour, 17-minute triumph, the 25-year-old has earned 16 match victories in Madrid, his best record at any Masters 1000 event. The second seed will aim to make it 17 when he takes on American Sebastian Korda or #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the third round.

"It helps to be on this court again. It is always great to have those memories in the back of your mind,” Zverev said when reflecting on his past results in Madrid. “But I have to have this year on my mind and I have to focus on playing well and hopefully I can do that this week.”

The World No. 3 is looking to lift his first trophy of the season in Madrid, after falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals at the first clay-court Masters 1000 of the year in Monte Carlo.

Meanwhile, Cilic was aiming to clinch his first Top 5 win since 2018, when he downed then-World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open quarter-finals.

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In other action, Serbian qualifier Dusan Lajovic shocked fifth seed Casper Ruud 7-6(7), 2-6, 6-4 to earn consecutive main-draw wins at a tournament for the first time since Toronto last August.

The World No. 77, who reached the last eight in Madrid in 2018, saved one set point on Ruud’s serve at 6/7 in the first-set tie-break, eventually triumphing after two hours and 19 minutes.

The 31-year-old will next meet Pole Hubert Hurkacz or Monte Carlo finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Daniel Evans also advanced, edging past Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(2) after two hours and 58 minutes. The Briton will play sixth seed Andrey Rublev in the last 16, with the pair locked at 2-2 in their ATP Head2Head series.

Evans scampered around the baseline throughout and produced a strong ‘Steal score’, a new metric that reflects how often a player wins a point from a defensive position. The 31-year-old 'stole’ 47 points when defending, using his backhand slice to good effect. (Learn more about Conversion & Steal scores.)

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