Zverev goes to great lengths to break compatriot Altmaier; Nadal advances smoothly

MELBOURNE, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Alexander Zverev was slow to warm up and had to work hard against compatriot Daniel Altmaier in his Australian Open opener on Monday, when the world number three began his attempt to add a first Grand Slam title to his Olympic gold.

Zverev, 24, defeated Altmaier (87) 7-6(3), 6-1, 7-6(1) at Rod Laver Arena and will face Australian John Millman in the second round.

“Today not much has come out of the plan, to be honest, except that I won,” Zverev said after the match. “But that’s the way it is sometimes. It’s the first round of a very long tournament and you’re not always going to play your best tennis. It was a good match to go into the tournament and I hope the next round will be better.”

Zverev won Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021, during what was by far the best season of his career. He also captured five more titles in the year, including two Masters 1000s and the season-ending ATP Finals.

The 2020 US Open finalist showed his frustration at times with double faults, but was otherwise solid on serve, facing just one break point in the entire match, which Altmaier converted to briefly lead the third set.

Zverev, who hit 14 aces and committed six double faults, recovered early from the break and had four match points on return at 6-5. Altmaier saved them all and forced a tiebreak, but his rival – whose best performance at Melbourne Park remains the semi-finals in 2020 – raised his level and ended up sealing the contest.

Another of the favorites for the Australian tournament, Rafael Nadal, easily got rid of the American Marcos GirĂ³n 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the second round.

The Spanish tennis player, seeded sixth in the tournament, said he is not enjoying the absence of his great rival Novak Djokovic, even if it means he has more chances to win the first Grand Slam title of the year.

Tied for 20 majors with Djokovic and Roger Federer, Nadal said it would be “better for the whole world” if the Serb competed at Melbourne Park.

“I wish him the best. I think the situation got complicated and I don’t think he’s the only one who has done things wrong. There are more people responsible. But he is one of those responsible. I would have liked him to play,” he said.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)


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