Zverev Survives Aussie Millman In Paris
Alexander Zverev spent more time on court than he would have liked on Tuesday to start his run at Roland Garros, considering he played three three-set matches last week in Geneva en route to the title in Switzerland.
But the 2018 quarter-finalist will take the outcome. Zverev, the fifth seed in Paris, battled past Aussie John Millman 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3 on Court Philippe-Chatrier in four hours and eight minutes, the longest match of the tournament thus far.
"Exactly how I expected it to be honest. I expected it to be a very long match. I expected it to be a very tough match. John is someone who plays unbelievable at Grand Slams, he always has. He's very very, very fit," Zverev told Tennis Channel. "I knew that it was going to be difficult and I'm just happy to be through."
After shaking hands with Millman at the net, Zverev knelt on the court, sharing a moment with himself.
"It's been a few not easy weeks, easy months for me, personally as well," Zverev said. "So I just reminded myself that I'm still one of the best tennis players in the world and just reminded myself a little bit that everything is good and [that I'm going] to get another opportunity to play here in the second round and just point out some positive things."
A year ago here, Zverev reached the last eight at a Grand Slam for the first time. But he needed five sets in the second through fourth rounds to do so. And Millman pushed him to the brink in the his opener this year.
It was not the first time Millman has challenged a star on a big stage, having defeated Roger Federer to reach last year's US Open quarter-finals. And the 29-year-old showed his fighting spirit again to battle from two sets down, attempting to reach the second round on the Parisian terre battue for the first times.
The Aussie forced a fifth set after a tight fourth-set tie-break, when Zverev sliced a backhand into the net on the Aussie's third set point. Millman showed a willingness to stand on the baseline and trade groundstroke blows with the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion. But Zverev lost just four service points in the decider, breaking serve at 4-3 and holding to love to escape the test.
Zverev won his first tour-level title of the season on Saturday, beating Chilean Nicolas Jarry to win the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open, an ATP 250 event. The German was a late addition to the tournament as he was seeking more matchplay after reaching just one quarter-final at the three clay-court ATP Masters 1000 events.
"In Geneva I won a lot of tight matches that I lost this year on the clay, and I think Geneva helped me today, as well," Zverev said. "Obviously very different conditions out there. Very difficult to play today. But I think it's great that I came through and this is the most important."
Last year, Zverev won his second clay-court Masters 1000 title at the Mutua Madrid Open. But Zverev hadn't reached a final on this surface until Saturday in Switzerland. The 21-year-old will next face Swede Mikael Ymer, who qualified and then, during his Grand Slam main draw debut, beat Slovakian qualifier Blaz Rola 6-0, 6-3, 7-6(5). Zverev needed two hours and 32 minutes to beat Ymer in Stockholm in 2015.
"It was a great match. Tough match. Obviously he's improved a lot. [He's] had a few, I think, very good matches here. Came through qualifying. He has great rhythm, great confidence," Zverev said. "It's going to be an interesting one. I know his brother better than him. I actually did a training block this year with his brother."
Lajovic, this year's Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist, arrived in Paris having lost five of his previous six matches. But the Serbian saved six of the seven break points he faced and hit 29 winners to advance. Next for Lajovic will be French qualifier Elliot Benchetrit, who defeated Brit Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 in one hour and 24 minutes.
"I found a clear tactic right from the start, which means I was able to remain rather calm throughout the match. Obviously the first game was rather stressful. It wasn't easy for me to play for the first round here in Roland Garros," Benchetrit said. "But the fact that I remained quiet and calm, it gave an impression of ease maybe from the outside, or serenity."