Alexander Zverev heads into the French Open with the most lofty of expectations this fortnight, with many seeing him as the favourite to make the final from the bottom half of the draw and one of the few players capable of even challenging Rafael Nadal’s dominance at the tournament. He will play Ricardas Berankis in the opening round on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Zverev was almost coming into the tournament on a 14 match winning streak, having pushed Rafael Nadal all the way in the Rome final. He led 3-1 in the decider before a rain delay allowed the World No.1 to regain his composure and fight back to win. He will be disappointed to have lost but with two clay titles to his name this spring, it has been a productive few months for the German after began 2018 in questionable form. “I think this week is the most, actually, satisfying. Because even when I was tired, I still found a way against great players.” he said of his run in Rome.
Berankis is unlikely to pose much of a threat to Zverev with the Lithuanian barely touching clay over the past few years. He has not played on clay at main tour level since the French Open last year and last took to any court over a month ago in Davis Cup action. He was beaten 6-0 6-2 6-4 against Paolo Lorenzi a week after winning a Kazakh Challenger on clay, where all wins came against opponents outside the top 200.
Zverev is well aware of the struggles he has had in previous slams, even after excellent results in the lead in. He will not be getting ahead of himself, having lost last year in the first round of the tournament despite winning Rome just weeks prior. “I have done that before in Grand Slams, and I lost early. I’m going to try to avoid that. I’m going to try to prepare myself the best I can and play the best tennis I can. The rest will take care of itself.” he said. Berankis should not provide too much of a test for the German, who will seek to get off court in fairly quick time.
Prediction – Alexander Zverev in straight sets