Alexander Zverev looked like a world-beater throughout the clay court events leading up to the French Open. The German star was one rain delay three games away from being undefeated over the month of May. Considering Rafael Nadal will be the overwhelming favorite to win Roland Garros until the next glacial period, being labeled by pundits as best-of-the-rest is no small honor.
In the round of 128, the No. 2 seed lived up to the expectations by quickly dismissing the talented but undermanned Ricardas Berankis 61 61 62 in 69 minutes. The heavy conditions aided the hard-hitting Zverev to overpower the Lithuanian, who had an excellent junior career a decade ago but, at 150 pounds, has struggled to adjust to the main tour.
On Wednesday, the 21-year-old Zverev survived a legitimate scare at the hands of Dusan Lajovic, who held a two sets to one lead. Had either Ben Rothenberg or Renae Stubbs suddenly replaced Guy Forget as tournament director, the world No. 3 would be packing his bags right now, along with fellow fan favorites such as Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori. I’m sure fans would be willing to camp out all night to watch a Battle of the Balkans R32 between Lajovic and Damir Dzumhur on Court 18 (Irony Mode OFF).
Anyway, Zverev scraped his way through the in-form Serbian in five sets, and will now face the aforementioned Dzumhur, a foe in the mold of Berankis–i.e. technically impressive but lacking the physical tools to dominate the modern game. On paper, the light Bosnian should not pose a major threat to the aspirations of the German phenomenon. Nevertheless, Dzumhur, whose featured ATP video “A Sarajevo Story” I strongly recommend watching, is ranked #29 in the world. Sascha, we have a problem!
Dreadful vs Top 50 at Slams
According to Tennis Abstract, Zverev is 0-7 against Top 50 opponents at the Grand Slam level, not including his somewhat recent losses to NextGen peers like Borna Coric (’17 US Open, #61) and Hyeon Chung (’18 Australian Open, #58), whose rankings at the time of the match barely miss the cut.
There is an obvious mental barrier right there waiting to be broken. Will it happen on Friday? I say yes.
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