Paris (AP) – In the rain of Paris, Alexander Zverev effortlessly reached the second round of the French Open. Two weeks after his bitter final defeat at the US Open against Dominic Thiem from Austria, Zverev prevailed against his compatriot 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 the 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’m very happy with my game,” said Zverev after his clear success. “I hadn’t played on clay before and the conditions weren’t that easy either.” He spent the days after the disappointment in New York on a boat in Monte Carlo and did not pick up the tennis racket. But now he feels ready for great deeds again. “I believe that I’ll be a Grand Slam champion. I was close in New York and I don’t feel like I played my best tennis there,” said Zverev.
On Monday, Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic and Jan-Lennard Struff, among others, intervene in the action. US Open Champion Thiem and twelve-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal are also playing their first games.
For Zverev it was the first appearance 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 USA.
The lack of match practice on clay was only noticeable at the beginning of Zverev against Novak. The world number seven ran after a break early in the first set and was even 2: 5 behind. But then Zverev increased and got the first set after 48 minutes.
In the period that followed, Zverev had to struggle more with the bad weather than with his opponent. Although the rain got heavier, the organizers did not close the roof over the Court Philippe Chatrier for a long time. Only at the beginning of the third set did the organizers understand and closed the roof – while Zverev and Novak simply continued playing. “We’re not at the district championships here, it’s the biggest tournament on clay in the world,” said tennis legend Boris Becker, an expert on TV channel Eurosport, incredulous.
The bad weather was the number one topic on the first day of the clay court spectacle, which was moved from May to autumn due to the corona crisis. Cold, wind and, at the beginning, also rain made everyone involved extremely difficult. “It’s a sporting culture shock,” said Becker, compared to the conditions at the US Open in New York, which ended just two weeks ago. “The conditions 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 Suzanne Lenglen court, the game between co-favorite Victoria Asarenka from Belarus and Danka Kovinic from Montenegro was interrupted after a few minutes when Asarenka was 2-1. Asarenka and her opponent had been asked to wait in the square until the rain subsided a little. But both left the court. “I don’t sit in my chair at eight degrees and wait 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 had a hard time in her opening match, although she was a little better protected from the freak weather in front of 1000 spectators on the Court Philippe Chatrier under a closed roof. After initial difficulties, the Romanian beat Sara Sorribes Tormo from Spain on her 29th birthday 6: 4, 6: 0.
Koepfer only had a little slack in the second round against Hoang, but in the end he won confidently. Now the 26-year-old Davis Cup professional meets the Swiss Stan Wawrinka. “Of course it’s a game that you can look forward to,” said Koepfer about the duel with the 2015 Paris champion. “I’m in a good mood and have a lot of self-confidence.