French Open 2017

Tennis: Zverev loses to veteran in first round

Ninth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany stretches for a backhand during his 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 defeat against Fernando Verdasco of Spain yesterday.
Ninth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany stretches for a backhand during his 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 defeat against Fernando Verdasco of Spain yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Surprise result as highly-rated German is beaten by Spanish veteran Verdasco

PARIS • Alexander Zverev, the man seen as a potential French Open champion, crashed out in the first round yesterday, while Britain's Johanna Konta became the second top 10 women's player to exit.

Zverev, just 20 and fresh from his sensational Rome Masters demolition of Novak Djokovic, slumped to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 defeat by Spain's Fernando Verdasco, 13 years his senior.

"I played absolute s**t, that's why I lost," said Zverev. "But life goes on, it's not a tragedy. In Rome I played fantastic, I won the tournament. Here I played bad, I lost first round. That's the way it goes."

In a match controversially suspended on Monday at one set each, Zverev was defeated in a fog of mistakes and despondency.

The beanpole German committed 50 unforced errors and drew jeers from the Philippe Chatrier court crowd when he took out his frustration by hammering his racquet into the clay.

Left-handed Verdasco, playing his 14th Roland Garros and 56th consecutive Grand Slam, had lost to Zverev in the first round on clay in Madrid earlier this year.

But he is an experienced Grand Slam competitor, making the last 16 in Paris on four occasions.

"I practised really hard before this match against a great player like Alexander and I am super happy to be here on this court," said Verdasco, who next plays France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

"Maybe it was my experience. You have to be ready emotionally and physically because it can be a long match."

World No. 1 Andy Murray overcame a second-set blip to defeat Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, while third seed and 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka easily defeated Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik 6-2, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.

Juan Martin del Potro marked his return to the French Open after an absence of five years by defeating Argentinian compatriot Guido Pella 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.

"I love to be playing this tournament again after five years," said 2009 US Open champion del Potro, who reached the quarter-finals in his last appearance in Paris before blowing a two-set lead against Roger Federer.

Australian Nick Kyrgios shrugged off injury concerns and kept his emotions in check to outclass Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, booking his spot in the second round.

The 18th seed, notorious for his on-court tantrums, said: "I did not play many matches on clay and was not feeling that confident. I thought it would be tough. But I served really well at important times of the match."

Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei, the world No. 109, stunned seventh seed Konta 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4. "I tried very hard and gave myself a big chance," said Hsieh.

The British player has yet to win one match in the main draw in three attempts.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Zverev toppled in first round'. Print Edition | Subscribe