Alexander Zverev has fired an imposing message from the outset in his bid for a maiden Grand Slam title, with Slovenian Aljaz Bedene his first hapless victim at Australian Open 2019.
Desperate to transfer his tour results to success at the majors – where it matters most – the German clinched his opener 6-4 6-1 6-4 on Tuesday.
Only the “Big Three” of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer stand above the 21-year-old in the rankings, but there is no hiding the fact he has only reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal in his young career.
Last year, it was South Korea’s Hyeon Chung who ran away with a third-round upset at Melbourne Park.
Twelve months later, Zverev has added eight-time slam champion Ivan Lendl to the coaching fold and picked up the biggest title of his career – the season-ending ATP Finals – in London.
It was there he defeated Federer and Djokovic back to back, and while it wasn’t his first time beating either player, the elephant in the room remained; Zverev had not beaten any of the big names on the Grand Slam stages.
“It was an unbelievably special moment,” Zverev said. “It was the World Tour Finals where you only play the best eight players in the world. It doesn’t happen anywhere else, not even the slams.
“Before that week I didn’t play my best. I had the mentality [that] this is the last week of season and just to enjoy it.
“I had no expectation and no set goal to win the title. I take from that week as well and try to take it to the Grand Slams now as well – enjoy playing biggest stadiums against the best players.
“I think that was maybe the most important thing about that tournament.”
Under cloudy but sweltering conditions at Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday, Bedene started the quicker of the two, landing the first break at 3-all.
It could not have been a better catalyst for Zverev.
He went on an absolute tear, thumping down his fifth aces to notch eight straight games before the Slovenian could stem the flow.
Despite letting a match point slip on Bedene’s serve, Zverev had no troubles closing it out a game later to book a second-round date with a Frenchman, either Ugo Humbert or Jeremy Chardy.
“It was the first match of the season. I was a little bit sloppy,” he said.
“[The first-set break] was a wake-up call to get going. I did play really well I thought after that and happy to be through.
Source: Dan Imhoff