Melbourne: Young German star Alexander Zverev needed a hard-fought three sets to get through his opening encounter at the Australian Open on Tuesday and spoke of his search for greater consistency.
The world No. 4 spent 2 hours and 22 minutes on Rod Laver Arena before claiming a 6-1, 7-6, 7-5 win over 73rd-ranked Italian Thomas Fabbiano.
Zverev, at the vanguard of the “NextGen” brigade, will face fellow German Peter Gojowczyk in the second round.
While the 20-year-old won five titles and was one of just four players to beat Roger Federer last year, he has yet to get beyond the fourth round at a Grand Slam.
“I think last year I was pretty consistent, apart from the end of the year,” Zverev said.
“I think my game is getting more consistent with age as well. I think that’s also something that is a factor of maturity.
“So I’m just trying to get better every single day, and that’s what I’m here for.”
Zverev said he was expecting a tough scrap against Fabbiano.
“That’s what he does. That’s what he’s known for on tour, to be competitive, to fight for every single point, play well from the baseline,” he said.
“He’s like a Diego Schwartzman-type of player. So they are always not easy to beat, especially in first rounds.
“I was a bit surprised with his serve and how well he was serving. But apart from that, I was looking forward to a tough match.”
Zverev served up 17 aces among his 47 winners and broke Fabbiano’s serve five times, while saving 12 break points.
He said of his next opponent: “He’s (Gojowczyk) someone who plays really well on the hard courts.
“I think he played well in Auckland, as well. Obviously, a player that’s very well informed.”
Zverev was ousted in the third round in Melbourne in 2017 and could face a potential third-round clash against his older brother Mischa if he gets past Gojowczyk.
Former world No. 3 Milos Raonic said he would go back to the drawing board after Lukas Lacko sent him tumbling out in the first round, the Canadian’s earliest grand slam exit since the 2011 French Open.
On the comeback trail after a 2017 season disrupted by injury, Raonic looked off the pace as he was picked apart 6-7, 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 by the 86th-ranked Slovak on showcourt two.
“I was not prepared for this situation so I will take a whole new review,” Raonic said.
“I was hoping I would be able to work my way in (to the tournament) but that’s not the case.”
He had reached the last eight in his last three visits to Melbourne, making the semi-finals in 2016, and his ability to fire down a thunderous ace kept him in the contest until the fourth set tiebreak.
Two more aces, taking his match tally to 36, briefly gave 22nd seed Raonic a 4-3 lead but he was unable to match Lacko’s accuracy and mobility and the Slovak progressed to meet Argentine Nicolas Kicker in round two.
Raonic has struggled since reaching last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals and missed the US Open with a wrist injury.
He then hurt his calf in Tokyo in October and suffered a knee injury in November, cutting short his off-season training.
“I’m not where I need to be at,” Raonic, now ranked 23, said. “I struggled physically, but thankfully not through injury. Just in terms of fitness and being prepared.
“I was just not sharp, not quick, not hitting hard or aggressive and couldn’t dictate.”