Nadal advances at Australian Open, Zverev needs five sets to outlast Haase
By Ricky Dimon
Andy Murray and Roger Federer were among those who sailed safely through to the Australian Open second round on Day. The pressure was on Rafael Nadal to do the same on Tuesday.
Nadal did just that, and he did not without any trouble in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Florian Mayer during the afternoon session in Rod Laver Arena. The world No. 9 capitalized on just three of 12 break-point opportunities but did not face a single break point on his own serve while advancing in two hours and four minutes.
One break in each set was enough for Nadal to get the best of Mayer, who actually gave a good account himself but simply ran into a better opponent. The 33-year-old German recorded 23 winners and 27 unforced errors, a commendable ratio against a defender of Nadal’s caliber on a relatively slow hard court. Nadal finished 39 winners and 31 errors to go along with six aces and zero double-faults.
“I think I played solid match,” the Spaniard assessed. “It was great to be back on the big stadium. I feel the support of the people, love of the people. That is something that is very special for me. I am happy the way I am playing. I had [some] good weeks of practice… I always expect difficult matches. Today was not an easy match.”
If Nadal’s match wasn’t easy, Alexander Zverev’s was an absolute nightmare. Well–almost a nightmare. The 19-year-old recovered from two sets to one down and a break down in the fourth to survive Robin Haase 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Zverev destroyed a racket after getting broken early in set four, at which point he was seemingly on his way to a surprising first-round exit. But that incident seemed to get the German back on course, whereas the mentally fragile Haase imploded as he approached the finish line.
“If you’re down two sets to one and 2-0 and 0-40 on your serve, there are thoughts going through your head a little bit,” Zverev commented. “But I kept playing, and I knew I had to keep playing and try my best. You know, I’m happy to get out of that.
“I felt pretty okay. [Haase] got a little bit tired, I thought. His energy went down. I don’t know if that’s because he’s tired or if because he lost the fourth set where he may have thought he should have won. But I picked it up and I played great the fifth set.”
Up next for Zverev on Thursday is Frances Tiafoe, who defeated Mikhail Kukushkin in four sets.