Paris (AP) – In the rain of Paris, Alexander Zverev effortlessly reached the second round of the French Open. Two weeks after his bitter last defeat at the US Open against Dominic Thiem from Austria, Zverev won against fellow countryman Dennis Novak 7: 5, 6: 2, 6: 4.
The 23-year-old only needed 2:05 hours for his success in cold, wet weather and survived the first round as the second German tennis professional. Before that, Dominik Koepfer had defeated Frenchman Antoine Hoang 6: 2, 3: 6, 6: 1, 6: 1. Anna-Lena Friedsam was eliminated against Alexandra Sasnowitsch from Belarus with 2: 6, 6: 2, 3: 6.
“I am very happy with my game,” said Zverev after his success. “I’ve never played on clay before and the conditions weren’t that easy either. So I’m happy.”
On Monday, Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic and Jan-Lennard Struff intervene in the action. US Open champion Thiem and twelve-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal also play their first matches.
For Zverev it was the first performance since the dramatic final in New York, which the German number one had lost in five sets. Zverev then skipped the tournaments in Rome and in his native Hamburg to recover from the hardships in the US.
The lack of match training on clay was only noticeable at the beginning of Zverev against Novak. The number seventh in the world was early in the first set after a break and was even 2: 5 behind. But then Zverev raised and got the first set after 48 minutes.
In the period that followed, Zverev struggled more with the bad weather than his opponent. Although the rain became more and more intense, the organizers did not close the roof of the Court Philippe Chatrier for a long time. It wasn’t until the beginning of the third set that the organizers understood and closed the roof – while Zverev and Novak continued to play. “We’re not here at the district championships, it’s the largest clay court tournament in the world,” said tennis legend Boris Becker, an expert on Eurosport TV channel.
The bad weather was the number one topic on the first day of the gravels show, which was moved from May to autumn due to the corona crisis. Cold, wind and in the beginning also rain made everyone involved extremely difficult. “It’s a sporting culture shock,” Becker said, compared to the conditions at the US Open in New York, which ended just two weeks ago. “The circumstances make the game extremely slow.”
In wet and cold weather with temperatures around 10 degrees and drizzle, the challenges for the players were great, especially on the outdoor courts. On the field of Suzanne Lenglen, the match between fellow favorite Victoria Asarenka from Belarus and Danka Kovinic from Montenegro was interrupted after a few minutes when Asarenka was 2-1.
Especially US Open finalist Asarenka complained about the circumstances. “The conditions were insane at first,” said Asarenka. She and her opponent had been asked to wait in the square for the rain to subside a little. But both left the court. “I don’t sit in my seat waiting for eight degrees and get cold,” said the former number one in the world. After the half-hour break, Asarenka showed a sovereign performance.
Top favorite Simona Halep also struggled in her opening match, although she was slightly better protected from the erratic weather in front of 1000 spectators at the Court Philippe Chatrier under a closed roof. After initial difficulties, the Romanian won 6: 4, 6: 0 against Sara Sorribes Tormo from Spain on her 29th birthday.
Koepfer only had some margin against Hoang in the second round, but eventually won confidently. Now the 26-year-old Davis Cup professional meets the Swiss Stan Wawrinka. “It is of course a game you look forward to”, said Koepfer about the duel with the champion of Paris in 2015. “I am in a good mood and have a lot of self-confidence.