There was an epic epilogue to Friday’s play in the Manolo Santana Stadium. Alexander Zverev had a mountain to climb at 6-7, 3-4 with Roberto Carballés serving at 30-0. The German reacted with a comeback in which he strung together eight straight games to close the match out (6-7, 7-5, 6-0). The result keeps his hopes alive in the Mutua Madrid Open, one of his favourite Masters 1000 tournaments, with two titles to his name.
After three hours and 25 minutes, the 2018 and 2021 champion survived the first test in the Spanish capital in a year in which he is defending the final he reached there last year. The Spaniard deserves a special mention. He had the ATP ex-world No. 2 against the ropes having started his MMOPEN campaign with a win over David Goffin in the first round.
On the verge of the first weekend of the competition in the Caja Mágica, the two players gave the fans plenty to cheer in the Madrid night with a to-and-fro scoreboard and plenty of thrilling rallies. There was a brief ceasefire midway through the first set, when Zverev took a medical timeout, but the battle soon resumed.
The 2020 US Open finalist came through a tough physical and mental test to balance his win-loss record for the year (11-11) and notch up his twentieth win compared to just three defeats on the clay of the Spanish capital. In order to try and continue improving his stats and progressing through the draw, the current world No. 16 will now have to get past Hugo Grenier (7-6, 7-6 vs. Sebastian Korda) on Sunday.
It will be the first clash between the German and the Frenchman. The latter, who came through qualifying, will be bidding to reach his first Masters 1000 round of sixteen. For Zverev, on the other hand, he failed to progress from the round this year in Indian Wells and Monte Carlo. Improving on the result in Madrid would give him confidence after returning from a complicated ankle injury he picked up in last year’s French Open semi-finals.