Alexander Zverev, the 22-year-old NextGen star who has still not made an impact at grand slam level despite his successes on the ATP Tour, found himself being stretched yet again as he opened his challenge at Roland Garros.
It was very windy today so that made the conditions very difficult. It was a first match against a great opponent. [But] I got through and that's all that matters. Alexander Zverev
The fifth seed survived a bruising four-hour battle but eventually successfully got round what was proving a very stubborn obstacle in Australia’s John Millman 7-6(4), 6-3 2-6 6-7(5) 6-3.
Having collected the Geneva title last Saturday, Zverev struck 57 winners past world number 56 Millman, but also committed 73 unforced errors on what was a blustery day in the French capital.
“John is a tough player who beat Federer so I knew it would be difficult today,” said Zverev, bidding to become the first German man to win the Roland Garros title since Henner Henkel in 1937.
“It was very windy today so that made the conditions very difficult. It was a first match against a great opponent. [But] I got through and that’s all that matters.”
Next up for Zverev is Swedish qualifier Mikael Ymer, the world number 148 of Ethiopian origin, who marked his Grand Slam debut with a 6-0 6-3 7-6(5) win over Slovenia’s Blaz Rola.
“He (Zverev) has proven that he belongs up there,” said Ymer. “He is definitely one of the best in the game at the moment, so it’s a tough challenge.”
Argentine eighth seed Del Potro, a semi-finalist in 2009 and 2018, made the second round with a 3-6 6-2 6-1 6-4 win over Chilean world number 58 Nicolas Jarry.
“I think I’m playing well at the moment, but my main goal is still the knee, my health,” said Del Potro who is still feeling his way back after knee surgery.
Next up for the giant Argentine is a clash against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.
Fabio Fognini also got the ball rolling on his quest to claim his first Grand Slam title following his success at the Monte Carlo Masters. The Italian was in dominant mood against compatriot Andreas Seppi, won 6-3 6-0 3-6 6-3.
Meanwhile the Croatian 6’ 11” giant Ivo Karlovic set a couple of new records when he outlasted Feliciano Lopez for his first-round victory.
The 40-year-old world number 94 won 7-6(4) 7-5 6-7(7) 7-5 to become the oldest player to win at Roland Garros since Torben Ulrich in 1973. The pair will also share the record of being the two oldest players to face each other as their combined age totaled 77 years.
“It means a lot. Even though it’s in the record books as the oldest one, at least it’s in the record books, so I like it,” Karlovic admitted with some pride after firing 35 aces and 69 winners past his 108th-ranked opponent and staving off two match points in the third.. “I was out for almost two months, so I am really happy that I was able to win today.”
Next up for Karlovic is Australian youngster Jordan Thompson, but he insists it doesn’t matter to him who he faces.
“Right now I’m just happy with any match that I win,” he continued. “Even if it’s against older guys or kids, whatever. I just like to win.”
Bernard Tomic, meanwhile, wasn’t quite so motivated as he was dismissed by Taylor Fritz 6-1 6-4 6-1 while Sweden’s Mikeal Ymer overcame Blaz Rola 6-0 6-3 7-6(5).