Keen To Impress: Zverev Cruises In First Match Under Lendl
In his first match under new coach Ivan Lendl, Alexander Zverev made a strong first impression. The 21-year-old German cruised to victory in his US Open opener, defeating lucky loser Peter Polansky 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 on Tuesday.
Having hired Lendl, former World No. 1 and coach of Andy Murray, to improve his chances of winning the biggest tournaments in the sport, Zverev wasted no time advancing to the second round in Flushing Meadows. Zverev fired 10 aces and won 83 per cent of first-serve points to progress after one hour and 36 minutes. The Citi Open champion improves to a tour-leading 44-13 record this season and has already equalled his best result at the final Grand Slam championship of the year.
"Our goal is to do the best I can on the court," said Zverev. "His goal is to prepare myself the best I can. We're working hard towards that. We're working hard to being the best player I can be. We're working hard to one day maybe winning these kind of tournaments. It's no secret that's why I took him. That's the reason."
The World No. 4 has now reached the second round in New York for the third consecutive year, but will hope to progress much further in the draw this fortnight. Zverev reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final earlier this season at Roland Garros, falling to eventual runner-up Dominic Thiem in three sets.
"I've played in Australia before, so I know what it feels like," Zverev added, referring to the extreme heat. "I mean, before the match, obviously it was important to be hydrated. It was important to get yourself ready for a tough match, for a tough battle, especially in these conditions. Everybody was working for that, working together."
Polansky made headlines earlier this week after becoming the first player on record to enter all four Grand Slam events as a lucky loser. Remarkably, the Canadian has managed that feat in 2018 alone, with four consecutive Grand Slam entries as a lucky loser.
The nine-time tour-level titlist will face another lucky loser, Nicolas Mahut, for a place in the third round. Mahut defeated #NextGenATP countryman Corentin Moutet 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. Zverev trails Mahut 0-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
In other action, Kei Nishikori booked a blockbuster second-round clash against Gael Monfils. The Japanese star leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head by a count of 3-1, but the Frenchman took their most recent encounter at the Rogers Cup in 2017. Monfils saved four match points in one of the matches of the year.
On Tuesday, 2014 finalist Nishikori flew past Maximilian Marterer 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, while Monfils overcame qualifier Facundo Bagnis 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-0, 6-0. The charismatic Frenchman is appearing in his first hard-court tournament since Indian Wells in March. He is two years removed from a semi-final appearance at Flushing Meadows.
Meanwhile, Matthew Ebden booked a second-round date with Philipp Kohlschreiber. The veterans split their two previous FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters, with Kohlschreiber prevailing on the clay of Roland Garros in 2012 and Ebden exacting revenge earlier this year on the grass of Halle. The German defeated countryman Yannick Hanfmann 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 and the Aussie prevailed over Filip Krajinovic when the Serbian retired down 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1, 4-1.
Last year's quarter-finalist Diego Schwartzman made a winning return to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, beating countryman Federico Delbonis 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-2. Schwartzman, who fell to Pablo Carreno Busta in the last eight in 2017, hit 36 winners and converted six of 13 break-point chances to move through to the second round after two hours and 41 minutes.
Schwartzman will meet #NextGenATP Spaniard Jaume Munar in the second round. Munar, currently sitting in eighth position in the ATP Race To Milan, beat Belgian Ruben Bemelmans 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-1 in just under four hours. Only the top seven automatically qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals, with the eighth spot reserved for the winner of an all-Italian qualifier tournament to be held just prior to the tournament.
Did You Know?
At the Mutua Madrid Open in May, Zverev became the first player to win a clay-court title without being broken since stats started being kept in 1991. The German faced one break point en route to the title.