Zverev wins Millman marathon

 - Alex Sharp

No.5 seed survives in five to book second-round encounter with qualifier Mikael Ymer.

Alexander Zverev© Julien Crosnier / FFT

Alexander Zverev’s Roland-Garros quest is up and running but the Next Gen leader was once again hauled into a five-set battle to earn his progress in Paris.

The world No.5 managed to quell a courageous comeback from John Millman 7-6(4), 6-3, 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-3 over four hours and eight minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier.


The relief was palpable as Zverev crouched on the clay moments after victory, tapping the court with his racquet in a moment of reflection.

“Today was a tough one, I expected it to be a long match. For a first match it was a great match,” said Zverev, hailing his opponent. “John played unbelievable. He made life so difficult for me. I am just happy to be in the next round, looking at the positive things.”

At Roland-Garros 2018 the German required five-sets in three consecutive rounds before Dominic Thiem halted his title tilt in the quarter-finals, but the fifth seed is forward thinking.

“I'm here to play my best. I'm here to win matches, I'm excited to what's coming ahead,” Zverev said. “Most important, I'm still in the tournament, and that's all that matters.”

An 11th career title was lifted in Geneva last Saturday, his first trophy of 2019, where Zverev was also pushed the distance in three matches.

“I won a lot of tight matches, I think Geneva helped me today, as well. Obviously very different conditions out there," he noted. "Very difficult to play today but I think it's great that I came through a match like this.”

Zverev made a scorching start, unleashing a barrage of winners off the backhand wing. One in particular was glorious as the German stayed low outside the tramlines and arrowed a shot around the net post.  

The scoreboard rapidly turned to 4-1 in favour of the fifth seed, before Millman began prolonging the rallies, digging his teeth into the contest to dissolve the deficit.

With an open court the world No.5 looped a forehand long, wasting a set point and enabling Millman to force a tie-break.


Even though Zverev claimed the gruelling 68-minute opener, his rhythm was still off. Down a break at 2-3 the 22-year-old carved an acute volley and crisp backhand passing shot to wrestle back the momentum, claiming four successive games. “Let’s go” Zverev bellowed towards the stands, two sets in the ascendancy.


Millman, a 2018 US Open quarter-finalist, had never won a main-draw match at Roland-Garros in three previous attempts, but was undeterred. The world No.56 capitalised upon loose service games from Zverev and motored through the third set.

Zverev reset and gained a 2-0 lead, however, his serve faltered once again with an 11th double fault, opening the door for Millman. The Australian was engaged in every point, hustling at the baseline.

His relentless work ethic was rewarded, punishing passive play from Zverev and at one stage winning 12 of 13 points to give his comeback credentials real merit. Zverev erased a set point, but couldn’t withstand Millman’s momentum in the tie-break.

Locked at 3-3 in the fifth, Zverev dropped his racquet mid-rally and still recovered to take the point. That appeared to galvanise the German; he curled a courageous lob over Millman to chalk up the pivotal break.  

World No.148 Mikael Ymer awaits in the second round, an opponent Zverev remembers well from a 2015 clash.

“We played in Stockholm. It was a great match (Zverev claimed victory in three tight sets). Obviously he's improved a lot. Had a few very good matches here. Came through qualifying,” Zverev said.

“He has great rhythm, great confidence. It's going to be an interesting one. I know his brother (Elias) better than him. I actually did a training block this year with his brother. It's going to be a fun one.”