Despite not playing a clay-court event before Roland Garros, Alexander Zverev didn’t seem bothered on Sunday evening in Paris. The sixth seed overcame a slow start to ease past Dennis Novak 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and five minutes.
“I’m happy to get the win and be through to the second round,” Zverev said on court.
The German has made a habit of going the distance at the clay-court Grand Slam, needing five sets in five of his previous eight victories at the tournament. But Zverev won five consecutive games from 2-5 down in the first set and never relinquished that momentum against the Austrian.
In the early going, Novak went after his shots and pushed Zverev back. Sometimes, the German is willing to camp well behind the baseline and wait his opponent out. But that was not the case on Court Philippe-Chatrier, as he stepped into the court whenever possible and used his booming serve to control points against the World No. 92
Zverev won 83 per cent of his first-serve points and hit 37 winners in his triumph. The 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion is playing some of the best tennis of his career, fresh off reaching his first Grand Slam final at the US Open. The 23-year-old will next play home favourite Pierre-Hugues Herbert or American qualifier Michael Mmoh.
Zverev will not have to face a seeded opponent until at least the fourth round after Marco Cecchinato raced to a 7-6(9), 6-4, 6-0 victory against 25th seed Alex de Minaur. The 2018 semi-finalist broke serve on eight occasions to move through to the second round in two hours and 51 minutes.
Cecchinato has won four matches from qualifying without dropping a set in Paris. The Italian, who entered the clay-court Grand Slam championship with a 2-9 tour-level record this year, improves to 6-3 in main draw matches at Stade Roland Garros. He saved two set points in a tense first set.
“The biggest thing is I’m going through probably this rough patch, and everyone has it, but at the moment it’s what I’m dealing with,” said De Minaur. “I’m not happy with where I am, not happy with what I’m showing on court.
“It’s a little bit demoralising in itself that I can’t come out and play the tennis that I want to and that I know I can. It’s something that I’ve got to have a long hard look at myself in the mirror and figure out what’s happening, and basically just fix it and get back to where I want to be.”
Cecchinato will meet Juan Ignacio Londero for a spot in the third round. The Argentine outlasted countryman Federico Delbonis 6-4, 7-6 (1), 2-6, 1-6, 14-12 after four hours and 54 minutes in a match that featured 21 service breaks.