He didn’t have an easy time of it, but Alexander Zverev is safely through to round two of the 2018 Australian Open after beating Thomas Fabbiano of Italy 6-1, 7-6(5), 7-5. Fabbiano asked exacting questions of Zverev in all three sets; the 20-year-old German answered them satisfactorily, albeit not as resoundingly as one would expect.

Fabbiano plies his trade primarily on the ATP Challenger tour and is a relative newcomer to Grand Slam tennis; his lack of experience on the big stage wasn’t apparent from the way he took the match to Zverev even in the opener, which Fabbiano had plenty of chances to make closer than it was. The world No.73 ended up being on the wrong end of a 6-1 scoreline in that set, though he could’ve made it more respectable if he had taken any one of the break points that Zverev allowed him.

The second set came alive when Zverev was serving at 3-4 down. A long deuce point was decided by an excellent backhand passing shot from Fabbiano, which he backed up with an aggressive forehand return off a weak second serve to earn the break. He let Zverev off the hook in the following game, failing to serve out the set, and after a trade of service holds the tiebreak commenced. Fabbiano twice held a mini-break during the tiebreak but it seemed that his best form deserted him whenever he came close to making a lead count for something. A better grasp of how to finish points at the net would’ve helped him immensely, as on two seperate occasions during the breaker his volleying skills were found wanting, most crucially on set point.

Fabbiano hung with Zverev all the way through the second set and brought to bear a similar kind of intensity in the third. Zverev’s service games became progressively harder for him to control and at 4-4 he was broken, giving his opponent a second chance to sneak a set. Fabbiano just couldn’t hold it together at 5-4 and Zverev rolled through the next three games to take the match. Fabbiano deserves an A+ for effort; unfortunately the tautness of his nerves proved costly each time he had the chance to translate his hard work into substantial gains on the scoreboard.

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