By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Alexander Zverev was made to work hard to reach the second round of the French Open, trashing a racket in frustration in a 7-6(4) 6-3 2-6 6-7(5) 6-3 win over Australian John Millman on Tuesday.
The German fifth seed, looking for a major breakthrough on the Grand Slam stage, needed more than four hours to see off the world number 56 and set up a meeting with Swedish qualifier Mikael Ymer.
The 22-year-old Zverev, one of the leading figures of the sport’s ‘new generation’, claimed his best result at a major when he reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros last year.
For a while, it looked like he could be sent packing on his first day on court as he struggled to find his range and lacked consistency.
Millman canceled out Zverev’s early break with the German winning the resulting tiebreak in the opener before sailing through the second set.
Yet Zverev never looked comfortable in changing conditions on Court Philippe Chatrier and he was overpowered in the third, Millman taking the tie into a fourth set with a powerful forehand winner.
Zverev broke his serve but Millman turned it around to force a tiebreak, which he won to take the match into a decider.
That did not please Zverev, who destroyed his racket before regaining his composure to snatch a timely break in the eighth game of the fifth set that allowed him to serve for the match.
There were no nerves on display as Zverev ended the contest on his first match point.
“Very difficult to play today. But, you know, I think it’s great that I came through and this is the most important,” said Zverev, who gathered momentum before the tournament by winning the Geneva Open.
“In Geneva, I won a lot of tight matches that I (had) lost (earlier) this year on clay, and I think Geneva helped me today.”
It was a far from brilliant display by Zverev, but the German lived to fight another day with a potential quarter-final clash with world number one Novak Djokovic lurking on the horizon.
“Today was a tough one. I’m excited by what’s coming ahead,” he said. “Most important, I’m still in the tournament, and that’s all that matters.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)