Alexander Zverev faced a match point and recovered to come back from two sets down to beat Sebastian Baez 2-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 7-5 in the French Open second round.
Zverev knew he would be up against a tough opponent, with Baez rated as one of the highest regarded up and coming talents, having only missed out on seeding by one ranking point.
But the Olympic champion was in good form, going into Roland Garros having reached the final at the Madrid Open and semi-final and Italian Open, respectively. He had also beaten Baez in Rome earlier this month.
How to live stream and watch Wimbledon on TV
Baez made a rapid start, though. The 21-year-old broke in the first game of the match and followed that up with a double break in the fifth game, leaving Zverev rattled. The third seed did get on the board, but the Argentine took the opener 6-2.
It was not a blip. Baez raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set, breaking to 30 and to love in successive Zverev service games to give him a cushion the German struggled to battle back from. He did recover one break in the sixth game but suddenly Baez found himself one set from victory, with a two set lead - meaning his bigger name opponent would need to go five to keep his title hopes alive.
Zverev is an Olympic gold medallist for a reason, though, and he fought back impressively at the start of the third, breaking in the second game as Baez began to show nerves for the first time in the match. The world no. 3 had finally woken up and he doubled his lead with another break to 15, before serving out to take the third set 6-1.
'What a fightback' - Zverev outduels Baez in five gruelling sets at French Open
- 'What is going on? Wow!' - Zverev gaffe stuns McEnroe, gets booed for rant
- 'Way too cool for his own good' - McEnroe on tennis' real life rock star Noah
- 'She's in good hands' - Wilander feels Mouratoglou can help Halep return to the top
The momentum was with Zverev now and Baez, who was virtually faultless early in the match, was rushing things. The German was quickly out in front at the start of the second set, breaking to 30 as the Argentine hit an easy forehand long.
The world No. 3 continued to battle and he pushed on for the fourth set to set up a decider, which saw his rival come back into the match.
It appeared that Zverev had done enough to set himself up for a win but he was then pulled back to 5-4, forcing him to serve to remain in contention for the victory.
The two players were giving it their all and a tough rally for the opening point reflected the commitment they were showing, with Zverev pushed to deuce to hold his serve, rescued by an unforced error into the net, only to see Baez set up a potential winner only to fail to take advantage of his own match point.
'He's unbelievable' - Zverev pays tribute to beaten Baez after French Open clash
Zverev was rewarded by attacking the net as he deftly left Baez stretching, and failing, to return to set up a break point, and Baez sent a return out to go 6-5 down with Zverev serving for the match, before he swept aside his opponent leading to a long exchange at the net after a serious challenge left him escaping a potential upset.
Speaking after wrapping up his passage to the next round, Zverev praised his opponent and revealed his words of consolation.
"I told Sebastian this is the worst he will ever feel on the tennis court, this moment," he began. It was such an incredible match. I know this too well - I lost the US Open final from two sets ahead, The next year I won the Olympic Gold and the ATP Tour Finals. He's a great kid. He's going to do a lot of unbelievable things in this sport."
Asked what spurred on his improvement in the second set, he said: "I couldn't have played worse, that set. I just tried to fight. In those moments you're not going to play great every single match, and you have to find a way to win this match. I'm happy with still being in the tournament right now.
"I was planning my holiday in Monaco, where I’m going to go. That relaxed me a bit, thinking of the beach. There’s not much you can do, you just have to find a way You talk about mental strength, talk about Rafa [Nadal] and Novak [Djokovic]. I’ll never be on their level but I’m trying got get closer to them."
- - -
Stream the 2022 French Open live and on-demand on discovery+
Djokovic and Swiatek confirmed as top Wimbledon seeds as Britain's Evans gets a boost
'It's a miracle' - 'Only Rafa' can keep recovering so quickly, says Corretja
Share this article