The match between clay court specialist Fernando Verdasco and newly crowned Rome champion Alexander Zverev had to be put on hold yesterday as umpire Carlos Ramos decided it was too dark to continue proceedings. The players were tied 1-1 in sets when the play today resumed at the Philippe-Chatrier Court. Zverev, now ranked number 10 in the world, started strong, driving through Verdasco’s defense time and time again. That paid off as the Spaniard sprayed a couple of unforced errors, giving the German the early break.
Just as the crowd thought that the Rome champion would take control of the match, Verdasco suddenly found his rhythm. He put immense pressure on his opponent with his forehand, which is one of the best on tour, and broke back when Zverev pushed a backhand long. The wind was now starting to become a factor as well. A factor Verdasco handled superbly. Without dropping too much power on his ground strokes, he held the ball in play, not giving Zverev the tiniest of opportunities at the end of the third set.
Zverev, on the other hand, wasn’t too pleased – not with his game and neither with the wind. Serving at 4-5 he gifted Verdasco two set points after several unforced errors. The 20-year-old saved the first one, but sent yet another backhand long on the second one and the set was Verdasco’s: 6-4 after 56 minutes of play on this second day.
The pattern of play continued in the beginning of the fourth set as Verdasco immediately broke Zverev’s serve. The youngster smashed his racquet in disgust, his frustration now apparent for anyone watching. A few games later Carlos Ramos gave Zverev a warning when he smashed his racquet yet again. Verdasco didn’t mind, though, and continued to knock on the door in Zverev’s service games. He almost got the second break of the set, but the German regained his composure and held.
Nevertheless, it was too late for Zverev to turn things around. At the end of the match he had made 26 unforced errors on the backhand side alone. Verdasco finally earned two match points when his opponent served at 5-2. The Spaniard clinched the first one, and after two hours and 53 minutes of play he is through to the second round 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-2
Zverev’s first round loss is somewhat surprising considering he beat Novak Djokovic in the Rome final nine days ago. However, at 20 years of age it’s evident that he still has a lot to learn. Today he lacked the experience necessary to defeat a clay court specialist like Verdasco in a best of five sets match at the French Open. Verdasco, who is now 33 years of age, will next face home hope Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the second round.