There is nothing like a bit of needle to stoke up expectations as the other two debutantes in this year’s tournament took to the court to start their campaigns. There has been a lot of expectation on the shoulders of Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was on the rough end of a 0-5 score-line and playing arguably the player of the latter half of the year, Daniil Medvedev.
Add to that a spat dating back to their first encounter in Miami last year, and fiery temperaments for both players and it gave a nice edge to this encounter. The pair were evenly matched with the first chance for a break falling to the Greek, but no others as they went to a tie-break. Momentum shifted back and forth with a brace of mini-breaks each, but it was Tsitsipas at the end who just nudged ahead.
However, the games were still tightly contested in the second set, but Medvedev failed to get even the merest sniff of a break point throughout the match, while Tsitsipas converted on his third chance in the second set before serving out for the match, and his first win in six tries.
He said, about the win: “It’s a victory that I craved for a long time now, and it’s great that I came in at this moment. He’s a tough player. He’s a very difficult player to face. He’s not giving you an easy time when you’re out on the court. So it definitely means a lot.
“I knew that I had to work very hard and had to be very much into the match, concentrated, focused, aware of every situation that I was facing.”
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Alexander Zverev  def. Rafael Nadal  6-2, 6-4
Day Two was the day for overturning seemingly Everest-like head to heads as defending champion Alexander Zverev confidently dispatched World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in straight sets for his first victory in six attempts.
The court is quick, but Zverev’s serving seemed to be hitting light-speed proportions as he denied Nadal any kind of rhythm. The first four games were competitive enough, before Zverev went on a run, winning six games on the bounce before Nadal got back into the game. Zverev held on to that early break to claim his first win over Nadal, and in straight sets no less.
Nadal indicated that he had felt no discomfort from the abdominal injury that caused him to concede a walkover in Paris but had to admit he had been outplayed.
He said: “It was not a problem with the abdominal at all. I did not feel pain in the abdominal at all. No, just Sascha, well played, and me, bad played, honestly. We can find reasons or excuses, but at the end of the day, what all really matters is I need to play much better in two days after tomorrow. That’s the only thing.
“We knew that going to be tough at beginning, because the period of time since the injury until today is very short, but we are here trying. I stay positive. I stay competitive, something that today I was not. That’s the thing that I am more disappointed, because knowing that I will not be at my 100% in terms of feelings, in terms of movement, in terms of confidence or hitting the ball, I needed my best competitive spirit this afternoon, and I was not there in that way.”
In what has been a very tumultuous year for Zverev, we could argue that his stint in Roger Federer’s Laver Cup, including the now infamous coaching from an emphatic Federer with Nadal skipping along behind.
Zverev was put in for the decisive last match, and here had to make a statement as a defending champion just beginning to find his feet again.
He said, of the two matches: “You cannot compare. In Geneva, it was the last match, the last point, and kind of the tournament was over. It was a team atmosphere. It was for the team, as well. It was different.
“And today is just the first of hopefully five matches for me. We will see how it goes, but obviously winning in a group stage is very important. Having those kind of matches is very important, as well.”
Zverev will face Tsitsipas on Wednesday, while Nadal faces Medvedev in a US Open final rematch.
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