Alexander Zverev has contested numerous five-set battles in the opening rounds of Grand Slam events, but the World No. 7 avoided such an opening to his US Open campaign with an impressive win on Monday.
The fifth seed faced a serious challenge against 2017 runner-up Kevin Anderson on Arthur Ashe Stadium and he rose to the occasion, recording a 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 victory after three hours and seven minutes. It was Zverev’s first victory since the resumption of the ATP Tour, having lost his opening match at the Western & Southern Open to former World No. 1 Andy Murray.
”I am actually quite happy with a first round like that,” said Zverev. “Kevin is not someone you usually play in a first round. This is a fourth round, quarter-final, semi-final match normally against him. I am extremely happy to be through.”
Zverev is one of the leading contenders to capture his first major title at this event. Only three Grand Slam champions are competing in the main draw in New York: 17-time major titlist Novak Djokovic, three-time Grand Slam winner Murray and 2014 champion Marin Cilic. In his most recent major appearance, Zverev reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at this year’s Australian Open.
Zverev improves to 6-0 in his ATP Head2Head series against Anderson, who underwent right knee surgery on 19 February. The German will next face #NextGenATP American Brandon Nakashima, who defeated Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3), for a spot in the third round.
After splitting a competitive opening two sets, Zverev won five straight points on his opponent’s serve to break for a 3-1 third-set lead. The German used his forehand to push Anderson behind the baseline and moved up the court to clinch the break with a delicate backhand drop volley. The 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion, who won five of six net points in set three, held to love at 5-3 to move one set from victory.
”[My volley] is something that I worked on in these six months,” said Zverev. “It was my serve, my volleys that I worked on. In the [Western & Southern Open] match, I thought I did those two things well until the really important moments and I wanted to do it differently to finish off the match today.”
In a fourth set dominated by serve, Zverev converted the only break point of the set at 5-5. The 11-time tour-level titlist capitalised on multiple errors from Anderson to serve for the match and held to love to improve to 8-5 at the major championship.