MELBOURNE – Alexander Zverev has been tipped as a potential Grand Slam winner and lived up to his billing Tuesday by sweeping into the second round of the Australian Open in straight sets.
The 21-year-old world number four cruised past Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in 1hr 55min at the Rod Laver Arena after coolly overcoming a minor first set blip when he lost his serve to the Slovenian world number 67.
Zverev dropped serve to trail 4-3 in the first set but broke straight back and from that point was never behind again in a dominant display.
“I was a little bit sloppy so it was a wake-up call to play better,” said the German fourth seed who came into Melbourne brimming with confidence after an impressive warm-up in Perth's mixed teams Hopman Cup, but also carrying some niggling injuries.
“My body is close to perfection,” he proclaimed after the match, bringing howls of laughter from the crowd when questioned about his fitness after the match by on-court interviewer Jim Courier.
“It looks great, because I'm standing next to you,” he quipped to the American former star.
Then more seriously he added: “I've had about 86 injuries and the ankle is still a bit swollen. But I've done everything right in my preparation. Now I either play well or I don't.”
He ended 2018 by winning the biggest crown of his career when he overpowered Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals, but questions remain over whether this new kid on the block can dismantle the dominance of the old guard including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
To do that he must end his abject record in Grand Slams.
For a player who has never been ranked outside the world's top five since breaking into that elite company in September 2017, Zverev's Grand Slam record makes painful reading.
A lone quarter-final, losing to Dominic Thiem at the 2018 French Open, is all he has to show from his 14 previous major appearances, despite having won three Masters titles among his 10 ATP crowns.
The German has never got beyond the third round in Melbourne.
Last year, seeded four, he crashed out in the last 32 to South Korea's Chung Hyeon.
He next faces Jeremy Chardy or Ugo Humbert who were facing off later Tuesday in an all-French clash.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)