There wasn’t supposed to be drama on the first day of the French Open third round in the men’s draw. After a tight one with Dusan Lajovic, second favorite Alexander Zverev was picked to roll past Damir Dzhumer today, but that was far from the case.
Zverev actually cruised to an opening set win, but Dzhumer stormed back taking the next two. Twice in the fourth, Dzumhur served for the match but couldn’t seal the deal. Then in then in the fifth, he held his lone match point.
Zverev pulled through for a 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-5 victory to earn, believe it or not, his first career win over a Top 50 player in a Slam.
“It was a great win, but also being out there was very special,” said Zverev. “It was a very tight match. It’s normal there were a lot of nerves involved. In that moment [at match point down], it’s all about finding a way. Even if you’re not playing your best, it’s all about finding a way to win and finding the right solution to the right moment.
“I think it was important to see for myself that I can win back-to-back five-set matches and both very difficult physical matches,” said Zverev. “I was feeling fine physically, so for me that gives me a lot of confidence going deep into the fifth set, and long matches on this kind of surface… [It] gives me a lot of confidence.”
Novak Djokovic was also on court playing Roberto Bautista Agut on Lenglen. The Spaniard dropped the first, took the second then led by a break in the third before Djokovic started to find the form to grab a 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(4), 6-2 in 3 hours, 38 minutes. It was great tennis from Djokovic who again looked angry and irritated at times, but he won.
“It was a great fight, almost four hours. Bautista Agut, he’s not going to hand you the win. You have to deserve it,” Djokovic said. “Not having so many matches in the last period, this is great. I mean, of course I don’t want to play four, five hours every match. But I think it was a great test. I had to earn my victory. Last set was actually the best set that I have played so far in the tournament.”
Bautista Agut was playing with a lot of emotion after his mother passed away a few weeks ago.
“My life is tennis. I’m used to going inside the court and forgetting about my real life and trying to do my work,” Bautista Agut said. “That’s the thing I’ve been doing since a lot of years… I have to tell you that it was not easy to go on court these days, but I don’t know why I could manage it.”
While Zverev and Djokovic survived, Grigor Dimitrov didn’t. The four seed played a tough first set then got blown away by Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-4.
“It’s never an easy match,” said Dimitrov. “I lost to him earlier this year, I think, in a tight match. Today was pretty much the same. What can I say? It’s a shame, because physically I felt good, but I think, obviously, I lost my nerve early on in the first set after I lost that set. So it was kind of tough to recover from that.
“But even so, I still had some time to kind of get into a rhythm, get into a different match, and it just didn’t happen. You know, simple as that.”
Dimitrov is still without a fourth round appearance at the French Open and after his promising Monte Carlo semi went MIA this clay season, barely beating Jared Donaldson in the last round.
“I really expected to play better on clay,” said Dimitrov. “Throughout the last matches I played, even in the Madrid, Rome, Paris, all matches, I had everything to win. So absolutely, it’s my fault.
“I definitely need to take some time off now to kind of reassess the whole clay-court season, to be honest,” he added. “I think that’s going to be the No. 1 priority for me now, to kind of step out from tennis for a little bit, [and] try to watch some matches and sort of try to progress somehow. Just get better.
“I have always been a positive thinker, and I want to keep that on the same level right now.”
Having no issue at all today was Kei Nishikori who ripped past Gilles Simon. He’ll move on to meet Dominic Thiem who lost a set but won in four over a pesky Marco Berrettini.
Berrettini’s countryman, Marco Cecchinato, enjoyed the win of his career stunning No. 10 seed Pablo Carreno Busta. The 72nd-ranked Ceccinato had never before won a Grand Slam match this week.
The matches between Lucas Pouille-Karen Khachanov and David Goffin-Gael Monfils were suspended due to rain just past 7pm local time.
Khachanov was up 2 sets and 1-all on the Frenchmen. After splitting sets, Goffin led with a break 3-2, 30-0 in the third.
On Saturday, Rafael Nadal returns seeking a 16th straight win over Richard Gasquet. Juan Martin del Potro takes on former quarterfinalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Fabio Fognini also meets Kyle Edmund and big menJohn Isner, Kevin Anderson and Marin Cilic return.
SATURDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Court Philippe-Chatrier – Play starts at 11am
Garbiñe MUGURUZA (ESP)  vs Samantha STOSUR (AUS)
Not before 12pm
Lucas POUILLE (FRA)  vs Karen KHACHANOV (RUS)
To be completed: Khachanov leads 6-3 7-5 1-1
Maria SHARAPOVA (RUS)  vs Karolina PLISKOVA (CZE) 
Rafael NADAL (ESP)  vs Richard GASQUET (FRA) 
Albert RAMOS-VINOLAS (ESP)  vs Juan Martin DEL POTRO (ARG) 
Court Suzanne-Lenglen – Play starts at 11am
Fabio FOGNINI (ITA)  vs Kyle EDMUND (GBR) 
Not before 12pm
David GOFFIN (BEL)  vs Gael MONFILS (FRA) 
To be completed: Goffin leads 6-7(6) 6-3 3-2
Irina-Camelia BEGU (ROU) vs Caroline GARCIA (FRA) 
Julia GOERGES (GER)  vs Serena WILLIAMS (USA)
John ISNER (USA)  vs Pierre-Hugues HERBERT (FRA)
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