Fortune favoured those men’s seeds with a history of deep runs at previous Australian Opens on Monday, as last year’s semifinalist Alexander Zverev joined 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round.
Fellow former semifinalists Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov also prevailed.
It was a tearful exit for former quarterfinalist Gael Monfils, however, as the 10th seed lost his sixth-straight match since the tour resumed last year.
Zverev kicks into gear against gutsy Giron
A sleeveless Alexander Zverev took a couple of sets to get going, but did so in the nick of time to run out a four-set victor over American Marcos Giron on Monday.
The nuggety Giron stood toe to toe for two sets before the sixth seed pulled clear 6-7(8) 7-6(5) 6-3 6-2.
Zverev, who reached his first major semifinal at last year’s Australian Open, let slip a 4-2 opening set lead and was found wanting at the crunch end when he missed a set-point opportunity, having saved four in the tie-break, only to lose it 10-8.
Serving for the second set, the German fired a nervous volley long, which sparked a break of serve and racquet demolition job.
A couple of momentary delays followed in the second set tie-break as a swoop of low-flying swallows swirled about the court, but Zverev regrouped in time to level on his third set point and went on to book his passage after two hours and 45 minutes on the back of 50 winners.
“He played incredible. He knew that on a big stage against a top 10 player he had to come out firing and to give it his best,” Zverev said. “He had me on the ropes there, especially in the second set tie-break it could have gone either way.”
Stan feeling the man again after COVID battle
2014 champion Stan Wawrinka conceded he only started to feel himself again in the past week following a bout of coronavirus late last year.
So a routine 6-3 6-2 6-4 opening round victory over 108th-ranked journeyman Pedro Sousa came as a welcome boost on Monday.
The No.17 seed cantered through in 96 minutes to hand the 32-year-old Sousa – no relation to fellow Portuguese player Joao Sousa – his third Grand Slam main draw defeat from as many appearances.
“I was feeling good. I think it was a great match for a first round,” Wawrinka said. “[I was] playing some good balls, I was playing aggressive, feeling better than last week. So I’m improving and happy to get through.”
The Swiss will face Marton Fucsovics in the second round, following the Hungarian’s five-set win over Australian Marc Polmans.
“It’s always amazing, always special coming back here,” Wawrinka said. “Winning my first Grand Slam was something unbelievable, amazing memories, amazing always the atmosphere and emotion when I enter on the court here.”
I can’t get out of this nightmare: Monfils
Gael Monfils’ horror winless run since the tour resumed last September continued on Monday as the Frenchman became the first men’s seed to crash out.
The No.10 seed fell 3-6 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3 to Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori in three hours and 46 minutes.
“I don’t have any confidence. I’d like to get out of this nightmare but I can’t,” he told French media.
“I don’t know when it’s going to end, it’s hard. Every time I get here I feel judged, I’ve lost again.”
Ranked No.86, it was the 21-year-old Ruusuvuori’s maiden appearance in an Australian Open main draw but two weeks practising with Monfils leading in clearly paid off.
“Probably the longest match I’ve ever played and a tough five-setter against a great player,” Ruusuvuori said. “We were laughing with my coach because you spend two weeks with one guy and there’s 127 other players – so to play him was kind of ridiculous, but that’s what it was.”
After starting last season with a 16-3 record, Monfils held triple match point against Novak Djokovic for his first win in 17 attempts against the Serb in Dubai last February.
Djokovic ended up winning the match and Monfils has not won any of six matches since.
Raonic honours his idol Brady
The first men’s winner of AO2021, Milos Raonic, had added incentive for efficiency on Monday.
Hot on the heels of a straight-forward 6-3 6-3 6-2 victory over Argentine Federico Coria, the No.14 seed hightailed it to the lockeroom to find a screen showing his idol, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, on his way to claiming a seventh Super Bowl ring.
“I think I look up to a lot of athletes that have done incredible things. I think Tom for a lot of people has (set) a pretty special example just because he wasn’t the kid prodigy that went on to do the great things he’s done,” Raonic said.
“I think a lot of people can reference that. I wasn’t necessarily by any means one of the best juniors, but I kept plugging away just to try to be better and better each day.
“It came together for me. I think a lot of people appreciate that.”
Source: Dan Imhoff