Zverev sees off Nadal to advance to second round at French Open

Alexander Zverev on Monday joined Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic as the only men to beat Rafael Nadal at the French Open since 2005.

The 27-year-old German prevailed 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 to dispatch Nadal at the earliest point from the competition he has won 14 times.

"It's such a great honour to play him," said Zverev immediately after his first-round victory in front of a packed Court Philippe Chatrier.

"I watched him all my childhood and I've been lucky enough to play him a few times."

Good fortune was far from Zverev two years ago when the pair met in the semi-finals at the French Open. The then third seed was in the ascendance but twisted his ankle during the second set and was forced to retire. Nadal went on to claim a 14th title.

Fast forward two years and following his health issues, Nadal, 37, has plummeted to 276 in the world rankings while Zverev has returned from the injury to recover his stature on the circuit and a fourth-place ranking on the ATP lists. He underlined his clay court credentials last week with victory at the Italian Open.

And the fourth seed was gifted Nadal's opening service game of the encounter.

The Spaniard fluffed a drop shot, served a double fault, watched Zverev unleash his first forehand winner and then plopped a backhand into the net.

Zverev held his own service to lead 2-0 and he maintained his advantage before taking Nadal's service for a second time to claim the opener after 51 minutes.

But Zverev played deadpan. He clenched his fist briefly after Nadal failed to serve out the second set.


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