Zverev Continues to Struggle at Grand Slams
Alexander Zverev is seeded second at this year’s French Open, but has well-known struggles in Major tournaments. He also has a strong chance to reach World #1 this season, at the age of 21. Even with his successes, he still is yet to defeat a Top 50 player in a Grand Slam, and has yet to make the quarterfinals of any of the four Major tournaments. Today saw him face off against an easy matchup on paper, the Serbian Dusan Lajovic, currently ranked #60. Lajovic tends to play his best tennis on the clay, but he is not considered a clay court specialist. He gave Zverev a battle for three sets and at many times appeared to be the better player, including breaking the powerful serve of Zverev five times.
Lajovic jumped out to a quick lead, winning the first set 6-2. Zverev recovered and fought back to win the second set 7-5, and it seemed that he had the momentum on his side to finish the next two sets. Lajovic had other plans, battling in a back and forth third set and prevailing 6-4. However, even with his struggles in slams, Zverev’s experience served him well and made the difference in the turning point fourth set. Zverev secured an early break and never looked back, winning 6-1 6-2 in the last two sets to take the match. Although Zverev was able to pull away, his struggles against a less talented player are cause for concern, especially with a potential matchup with Dominic Thiem looming in the quarterfinals, assuming he gets that far.
Donaldson Comes Agonizingly Close to Upsetting Dimitrov
American Jared Donaldson faced off against the #4 seed Grigor Dimotrov in the most competitive and hard-fought match of the day. After a long first set that saw Donaldson prevail in a tiebreaker, Dimitrov fought right back to take the second set 6-4. Donaldson won the third 6-4, with Dimitrov taking the fourth by the same score. The players made every point count with neither player winning more than three consecutive games. It all came down to a winner-take-all fifth set which would require more than 12 games to decide. Donaldson had never beaten a Top 10 player and was aiming for a career-best win, while Dimitrov has yet to reach the second week here and hoped to stay alive another day.
The final set did not disappoint. Both players refused to budge, reaching 5-5 in the set without a single break point for either player and only one game even reaching deuce. Donaldson had seemed to have the upper hand all set and reached a 6-5 30-30 on Dimtrov’s serve. He was two points from the match but Dimitrov won back to back points to extend the match. Donaldson had been dealing with leg cramps all set, and they seemed to have ended his match at 7-7. After holding all set, Dimitrov secured the break to love. Donaldson refused to stop fighting, breaking right back to stay alive for his first break since the third set. His fight was not quite enough, with Dimitrov breaking the very next game and holding to prevail 10-8 in the final set. This match should be encouraging for Donaldson as he showed he can play with one of the sport’s best, while Dimitrov will have to recover physically and emotionally to try and make a deep run.
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Recap of Other Highlights
In addition to the potential upsets, other top players were challenged in grueling matches, the most significant being women’s #1 Simona Halep. She dropped the first set against American Alison Riske 6-2, before recovering for a comfortable victory, losing just two games for the rest of the match. On the women’s side of the draw, other players did not struggle as much as the men, with Top 10 players such as Elina Svitolina, Petra Kvitova, and Caroline Wozniacki prevailing in straight sets.
High men’s seeds did not do as well. Kei Nishikori also found himself two sets to one down against Frenchman Benoit Paire and had to fight his opponent and the home crowd for a five-set victory. Although he had back-to-back must-win sets, this did not faze the tournament’s #19 seed, who won decisively in the final two. Former semifinalist here and #17 seed Tomas Berdych was not so lucky. After beginning his match today down two sets to another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, Berdych jumped out to a hot start by winning five consecutive games to take the third set and won the fourth as well. However, he did not have enough in the tank and lost 6-2 in the decider. Finally, #12 seed Sam Querrey lost to Gilles Simon in four sets after quickly winning the first 6-1. Americans have not fared well in recent years here, but Querrey was one of the top hopes and showed promise today, but was unable to get the job done.
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