Zverev, Vesely Enjoy Strong Clay-Court Starts
Djere, Verdasco make first-round exits
Top seed and World No. 3 Alexander Zverev started his clay-court swing with a convincing 6-4, 6-4 win against Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan on Tuesday at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech.
Zverev hit 13 aces and saved all three break points faced to set up a second-round meeting with Spain's Jaume Munar, who beat Argentine qualifier Facundo Bagnis 6-1, 7-6(3).
“This was my first clay match of the season,” Zverev said. “I’m very happy that I won it. I only arrived here last night, but I had been practising well in Monaco. The atmosphere was great, the fans gave me a lot of support. This is my first time in Morocco, and the people are amazing. The tournament is very well-organised, and it’s a pleasure to be here.”
Four of Zverev's 10 tour-level titles, including two ATP Masters 1000 crowns (2017 Rome, 2018 Madrid), have come on the red dirt. The 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion will meet Munar for the first time. The 21-year-old Spaniard, who reached the semi-finals at the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, is playing at a career-high No. 60 in the ATP Rankings.
Czech Jiri Vesely recorded his biggest match win for nine months with an impressive 7-6(2), 6-2 victory over second seed Fabio Fognini in one hour and 46 minutes. It was his second straight win over the World No. 18, nine months on from beating Diego Schwartzman and Fognini at Wimbledon in July 2018.
“As expected it was a tough match,” said Vesely, who will next play Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero in the second round. “Fabio is unpredictable and he can play Top 5 level. I got a bit nervous when he started playing unbelievably well at 5-1 in the second set. I’m coming back from a few injuries, so I still need to build my confidence [and] this is obviously a very important win.”
Laslo Djere and Fernando Verdasco were also among seeded casualties at the ATP 250 clay-court tournament. World No. 103 Lorenzo Sonego lost five of his first-service points in a 6-3, 6-3 win over fifth seed Djere, while fellow qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras recorded his first tour-level match win for 14 months by beating sixth seed Verdasco 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. In February 2018, the 33-year-old Menendez-Maceiras qualified and reached the New York Open quarter-finals (l. to Mannarino).
Elsewhere, seventh-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber recovered from 0-3 down in the first set and 1-4 in the second set to defeat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, a Spanish qualifier, 7-6(4), 7-5.
Two Frenchmen — eighth seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Benoit Paire — also opened their campaigns with victories. Herbert struck 13 aces in a 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-1 win over Italian Thomas Fabbiano, while Paire won the final three games of his 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia.