It was a match that was played over two days, after both the players collectively asked the match referee and the chair umpire to call time on play – after having split the first two sets – because of fading light in the evening.
But, when action resumed on Tuesday after it was halted on Monday, it was Fernando Verdasco who made the young gun Alexander Zverev bite the dust as he prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 over the 10th seed in the opening round of the 2017 French Open.
The Spaniard, who once reached a career high of seven in the world in the days following his 2009 Australian Open heroics, needed four sets to get through to the second round. However, the scoreline is deceptive to read in that it hides the way in which the match was played out. Both players exchanged brutal ground-strokes to keep themselves afloat throughout the match.
Verdasco, though, came out on top with an aggressive brand of shot-making, not just when the scores kept ticking in his direction, but also when he trailed the 20-year-old.
The 33-year-old’s tenacity came out stronger, especially in the third set, when he convincingly overturned a one-break deficit to to level the set, before capturing a second break of serve to win the set and take a two-set lead in the match.
In his post-match press conference, Zverev was brusque in describing his performance. But, in the truest of terms, for all that he felt was wrong with him, it wasn’t until Verdasco grabbed the third set that Zverev was pushed onto the back foot.
It also didn’t help then that as compared to the Spaniard, who determinedly positioned himself on the baseline to retrieve the barrage of the German’s shots, Zverev pushed himself more and more away from the baseline which put him in quite a defensive situation only able to divert back the shots to Verdasco to dictate and turn into winners.
Often, the line of margin between the winner and vanquished is quite narrow to fathom. The first round match between Zverev and Verdasco was one that touched upon this adage, even as it highlighted the reference of veterans finding lessons to give to the youngsters. Zverev had proved an emphatic point in his win over Novak Djokovic just the other week. On Tuesday, it was Verdasco who turned the tables on him.
“It’s always a pleasure to play on this historic court against a young player like Alexander that just won Rome. I’ve been practising very hard the last couple of weeks. With this victory a little bit of that work has come through,” said the ecstatic Verdasco, in his on-court interview after his win.
His driven attitude was rewarding enough, but it was then that Verdasco tacked an additional trivia that had escaped the wider notice. “It’s my 14th year here in Paris. [So], yeah of course I’m super happy being here one more year.”
More than being in Paris for one more year, Verdasco has, then, also added one more victory to his overall kitty of match wins across these successive Roland Garros appearances.