Alexander Zverev was rewarded for his patience on Wednesday afternoon, after an indifferent service performance that Brandon Nakashima capitalised on to keep their second-round US Open encounter far from routine.
Fifth seed Zverev took his time to break down the aggressive baseline game of World No. 223 Nakashima in a 7-5, 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-1 victory over two hours and 55 minutes on Louis Armstrong Stadium at Flushing Meadows.
While Zverev was successful on first serve — winning 88 per cent, 82 per cent and 84 per cent in the first three sets, respectively — he struggled on second delivery, dropping to as low as 11 per cent of second-service points won in the second set. When Zverev, who hit 25 aces and 10 double faults in total, found his rhythm, he regained control to move onto a clash against No. 32 seed Adrian Mannarino.
“Take the 10 double faults away and it’s perfect, and I wasn’t broken today,” said Zverev, who lost last week in a tough first-round encounter against former World No. 1 Andy Murray at the Western & Southern Open, as the ATP Tour returned after a five-month suspension. Twelve months ago, Zverev advanced to the US Open fourth round (l. to Schwartzman).
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Zverev, who could not convert three break points in the fifth game, finally broke through at 5-5, when he won five straight points after Nakashima had led 40/0. Zverev then closed out the 53-minute first set, finishing with an unreturned first serve.
Nakashima bounced back, trading groundstroke blows with Zverev and, with a 5-4 lead, held two consecutive sets points as the German’s first serve faltered. Both times, with sight of an open court, Nakashima over-hit groundstrokes.
Consistent stroke depth in the tie-break helped Nakashima to a 5/0 advantage. Zverev recovered from 3/6 down, in a run that included an outstanding backhand pass on the third set point. Zverev saved a fourth set point at 6/7 with an ace down the middle, but was powerless on his own set point chance at 8/7 when Nakashima ripped a backhand winner down the line. Nakashima’s persistence was rewarded on his seventh set point, which resulted in Zverev hitting a ninth double fault.
“Obviously I didn’t want to lose the second set, but I know that if I play my game I can still win,” said Zverev. “So it was one set all, everything was still open. He’s a good player [and] has an incredible backhand… He’s a great player, I think, with great potential.”
Better movement from Zverev, coupled with strong ball-striking on his forehand wing, helped the German to a 3-1 advantage in the third set, when Nakashima double faulted for a third time. The single break proved to be enough and Zverev carried the momentum into the fourth set, which he commanded.
Zverev admitted, “His serve surprised me a lot, because he doesn’t serve very fast. But his placement is incredible. He can go any corner. He has all the serves that you need. His second serve is incredibly good.”
Later in the day, Mannarino defeated former World No. 8 Jack Sock 7-6(5), 7-5, 6-2 in two hours and 25 minutes.
Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina extended his stay in New York by knocking out No. 24 seed Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 for a place in the third round of a Grand Slam championship for the first time. He awaits the winner of Cameron Norrie and Federico Coria.