Five-Set Matches Were The Rule Rather Than The Exception During Day 4 At The French Open

Alexander Zverev advances to the third round at Roland Garros

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

Men’s No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev did not have his best day as a pro against unseeded and 60th-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia on Wednesday during his second-round match at the French Open. Although the 21-year-old German stumbled during the early going on the red clay covering Court 1 – affectionally known by many as the Bull Ring for its distinctive size and shape – he kept at it and produced winners when he needed them the most. Zverev was rewarded for his effort and perseverance.

Zverev’s was one of five five-set men’s singles matches involving seeded players that highlighted Day 4 at Roland Garros. Among them, No. 4 seed Grigor Dimitrov was pushed to five sets against 57th-ranked American Jared Donaldson and No. 19 seed Kei Nishikori needed to go the distance against France’s Benoit Paire, too. Each of them were victorious.

As it happened, Zverev fought back from down 2 sets-to-1 and took his match to five sets, enduring many shifts of momentum along the way. He prevailed by capturing 12 of the last 15 games during the three hour and 24 minute thriller – and won, 2-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, to move into the third round against No. 26 seed Damir Dzumhur on Friday. The 29th ranked Bosnian beat 97th-ranked Radu Albot of Moldova, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 1-6, 7-5, in a five-set marathon match that lasted three hours and 47 minutes.

Against Lajovic, Zverev hit 42 winners to overcome the 53 unforced errors he committed, plus five breaks of his service. He won 60 of 7 (77 percent) of his first-serve points, including nine service aces, and converted seven of 23 break-point opportunities. Zverev outpointed Lajovic, 156-141, and evened his win-loss record in career five-set matches to 5-5. It was Lajovic’s eighth consecutive five-set defeat.

Zverev, who improved his 2018 match record to 32-8 – which includes titles on clay in Munich and Madrid this spring – advanced to the third round at Roland Garros for the second time in three years. He’s met Dzumhur once, in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Shenzhen Open, which was won by the Bosnian.

“This is important, because I’m still in the tournament – so I have a chance to still play here,” Zverev was quoted by the ATP World Tour website as saying. “Obviously, Dusan, at the moment and during the clay-court season, he’s (been) playing unbelievable. I knew it was not going to be an easy match. I didn’t play my best the first three sets, I thought. Once I found my range and rhythm, I felt good out there.”

The No. 4 seed Dimitrov, who has never reached the second week of Roland Garros, gutted out a five-set win over 21-year-old Jared Donaldson of the United States, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8, that lasted four hours and 19 minutes on Court 18. By the end of the match, at 6-all in the final set, Donaldson resorted to under-handed serving a couple of times to fight off fatigue and overcome severe leg cramps – and it worked the first time he tried it. It brought back memories of a 17-year-old Michael Chang serving underhanded against Ivan Lendl during the fourth-round of the 1989 French Open on the way to winning his only Grand Slam singles title.

Dimitrov won his survival of the fittest contest, pulling out the fifth set 10-8 for his 50th career win at Roland Garros. Serving for the match at 8-7, Donaldson broke back. Then, Dimitrov won the final two games, which included the clincher with a hold at love. He kissed both of his knees without falling out of step – perhaps, to show he was still fit and able to play on – as he walked to the net to share a hug with Donaldson. The Bulgarian has reached the third round for the third time at Roland Garros, matching his best showings, in 2013 and 2017. Next, Dimitrov plays 34-year-old tour veteran and No. 30 seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain. Coming back after winning a four hour and 22 minute five-setter against 266th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan on Monday, Verdasco needed less than half as much time – and just three sets – to advance over 108th-ranked qualifier Guido Andreozzi of Argentina, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Meanwhile, Nishikori came back from down a set and beat the 51st-ranked Paire, 6-3, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, on Court Philippe Chatrier in just under three hours. He withstood 49 winners hit by Paire, including 14 service aces, and beat the Frenchman for the third time at Roland Garros. In the third round, Nishikori will face French opposition for the third consecutive time during this French Open fortnight when he takes on 65th-ranked Gilles Simon, who earned a 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-1 win over American Sam Querrey, ranked 15th.

Keys wins battle of hard hitters

As the second highest-ranked American woman in the French Open singles draw, No. 13 seed Madison Keys is expected to use her power to go far in this year’s French Open, the only major she has yet to reach the quarterfinals. On Wednesday, she faced American Caroline Dolehide, a 19-year-old qualifier ranked 125th, in a battle of hard hitters. Playing on the brand-new Court 7, Keys prevailed over Dolehide, 6-4, 6-1.

In the next round, Keys will face No. 21 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan, whom she has beaten twice over the past two years. It will be her third career third-round match at Roland Garros, where she is 1-1. After reaching the quarterfinals earlier this year at the Australian Open, Keys, 23, is attempting to reclaim her 2018 season, which has seen her struggle at times, especially on clay – including consecutive opening-round losses at Stuggart and Madrid – less than a year after being a U.S. Open finalist. After her win against Dolehide, Keys told an interviewer that she thought she played “solid” on clay against her fellow Illinoisan.

“I feel each year I get a little more comfortable (on clay),” said Keys, who fired 21 winners during her 69-minute victory. “This is the longest clay-court season I’ve had. Hopefully, I can get a few more wins under my belt.”

Other winners:

Trailing 2-5 in the opening set, men’s No. 8 seed David Goffin of Belgium won 15 straight games and advanced easily over 141st-ranked French teen-aged wild card Corentin Moutet, 7-5, 6-0, 6-1.

• No. 13 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain defeated 315th-ranked qualifier Santiago Giraldo of Columbia, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, to move into the third round. He will face No. 20 seed Novak Djokovic, who advanced in straight sets over 155th-ranked qualifier Jaume Munar of Spain. After a first-set tie-break went in Djokovic’s favor, 7-1, the 2016 French Open champion closed out the match with a pair of 6-4 set scores.

Jeremy Chardy needed five sets and four hours and 13 minutes spread over two days, but the 86th-ranked Frenchman upset No 17 seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (8), 1-6, 5-7, 6-2, in a match that was suspended due to darkness Tuesday evening and resumed Wednesday afternoon. Chardy’s fellow unseeded Frenchmen, Julian Benneteau and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, also won suspended first-round matches and the host country compiled an opening round record of 9-6.

• No. 32 seed Gaël Monfils pleased his fellow French by advancing in straight sets – 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 – over 117th-ranked qualifier Martin Klizan of Slovakia.

• The No. 1-seeded men’s doubles team of Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil defeated Marco Cecchinato of Italy and Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, 6-4, 7-5, in a first-round match.

Women’s No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark needed just 51 minutes to advance over 219th-ranked qualifier Georgina Garcia Perez of Spain, 6-1, 6-0.

• No 10 seed Sloane Stephens, the highest-ranked American woman in the draw, advanced in just 62 minutes against 136th-ranked qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland, 6-2, 6-2.

• No. 23 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain was upset by 38th-ranked Maria Sakkari of Greece, 7-5, 6-3.

• No. 32 seed Alizé Cornet lost to Pauline Parmentier, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-2, in an all French matchup, as darkness began to set in on Court Suzanne Lengen.

What they’re saying:

During her press conference following her second-round victory over Viktoria Kuzmova on Wednesday, No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina welcomed the return of Serena Williams to Grand Slam competition. She was also asked by the media about Serena’s “catsuit” look, which Williams debuted on Court Philippe Chatrier on Tuesday afternoon against Kristyna Pliskova, twin sister of No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova.

“It’s nice and I think it’s a strong message from her,” Svitolina was quoted by as saying. “I read a little bit about the story behind it. So, it’s really something special, and I think it’s nice to see her back, nice to see her winning again. 

“And, hopefully, I can play with her because, for me, it’s something that I want to do. I want to play against Maria (Sharapova). I want to play against Serena, against Victoria (Azarenka), such great champions.

“We are training for those kind of moments, for those kind of matches, to play on the big stage in front of lots of people. So I want to challenge myself against those players.”