Zverev Battles Into Roland Garros Third Round
Safiullin did not show any signs of being overwhelmed on the big stage, but it was Zverev who emerged the victor, 7-6(4), 6-3, 7-6(1), in what was another intense battle against a player who came through the qualifying stages.
The German was quick to praise his opponent, saying: “I think he played a fantastic match. I'm happy to be through in three sets. The match definitely wasn't easy. I'm happy not to have played another five-setter. I think it's going to be important for me during the course of this tournament.”
The 24-year-old Zverev is now 20-8 on the season, including two titles at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco (d. Tsitsipas) and the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Berrettini). He will next play Serbian Laslo Djere, who overcame compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
Zverev, who recovered from two-sets-to-love down against qualifier Oscar Otte on Sunday, was given a stern test in the 60-minute first set. He was broken when serving for the set at 6-5, but got off to a strong start in the tie-break.
Safiullin maintained his self-belief despite losing the opener as he gained an early break for a 3-1 lead in the second set, but Zverev recovered to win the last five games. The Russian was again a break up in the third set, but an ill-advised underarm serve, when facing break point at 4-2, was pounced upon by Zverev, who won the game and took the set in another tie-break.
“Obviously, I don't do it on purpose,” Zverev said about trailing in both the second and third sets, “I don't go into the match and say, ‘Okay, my tactic is I'm going to be a break down, I'm going to fight back and come back.’ That's not how it works. I'm a break down most of the time because I play unfocused games or the opponent plays well.”
With two-time Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem losing his first-round match against Pablo Andujar, and Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer all in the top half of the draw, the German has a clear opportunity to have a successful stay in Paris.
Zverev beat his next opponent, Djere, in their only prior ATP Head2Head meeting in Acapulco this year. This is the fifth time that Zverev has reached the third round at Roland Garros, with his best results coming in 2018 and 2019 when he reached the quarter-finals.