Two of the top four men’s seeds rallied for five-set, second-round wins at the French Open on Wednesday, keeping the draw from being turned upside down like it hasn’t been in more than a decade.
No. 2 Alexander Zverev nearly became the highest men’s seed to lose in the first two rounds since Andy Roddick in 2005. The German Zverev trailed by a set and a break — and was down a broken racket, too — before eventually collecting himself and coming back to beat 60th-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 2-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Zverev equaled his best showing at Roland Garros; he also reached the third round two years ago.
If the 21-year-old German is going to get to the round of 16 he’ll need to do something he never has at a Grand Slam tournament: defeat a player ranked in the top 50. Zverev’s next match comes against 26th-seeded Damir Dzumhur.
Lajovic lost his eighth consecutive match that stretched to five sets.
Unseeded Jared Donaldson nearly became the first U.S. man to beat a single-digit seed at the French Open since 2000, leading No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov two sets to one.
But the Bulgarian came back to win 6-7 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8. Donaldson, 21, struggled so much that he resorted to an underhanded serve late in the fifth set (and won a point). The last U.S. man to beat a single-digit seed in Paris was Jan-Michael Gambill, who upset No. 8 Nicolas Kiefer in the first round in 2000.
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“I would never try [the underhand serve] if I was feeling 100 percent and stuff,” said Donaldson, who could barely move by the end because of painful cramps in his legs. “But obviously Grigor was playing so far back on the return that I felt like, ‘You know, maybe it’s just something that I’ll try.’ He obviously wasn’t expecting it, you know what I mean? It’s kind of a cheeky way to get a point.”
Another young American, Michael Chang, used an underhand serve while cramping during a fourth-round win over Ivan Lendl on the way to the 1989 French Open title at age 17; he remains the youngest man to win a major singles championship.
Dimitrov was not angered by the tactic.
Quite the opposite, actually, shrugging his shoulders and conceding it was smart for Donaldson to try it.
“It was beautiful, right?” Dimitrov said. “He wanted to use something different to kind of try to put me off guard.”
Before his first underhand attempt, Donaldson was actually two points from the victory, leading 6-5 in the fifth set and at love-30 on Dimitrov’s serve. But Dimitrov took the next four points.
In the next game, at 6-all, 40-30, Donaldson successfully used the underhand motion. He hit a short serve that two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Dimitrov returned long to allow Donaldson to hold.
After Dimitrov broke to lead 8-7 and serve for the victory, Donaldson broke right back.
In the next game, though, Donaldson could barely stand, let alone run. He double-faulted. Then he tried his second underhand serve, dropping the point. Dimitrov hit a winner to break for a 9-8 lead, Donaldson slowly limped to the sideline for the changeover and, soon enough, it was over.
Also Wednesday, 2016 French Open champion Novak Djokovic posted another straight-set win to reach the third round. Facing Spanish qualifier Jaume Munar, the Serb delivered a solid display to prevail 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-4 and move into the third round for the 13th time.
Djokovic, who underwent right elbow surgery earlier this year, is the 20th-seeded player in Paris, his lowest Grand Slam seeding since the 2006 U.S. Open.
“At the moment, I’m not playing at the level I wish to, but at the same time, I understand that it is the process that obviously takes time,” he said. “And I’m trying to not give up.”
Top-ranked Simona Halep put aside a terrible start and came back to claim 12 of the last 14 games, beating 83rd-ranked Alison Riske of the United States 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 to reach the second round,
It was the last match of the tournament’s opening round.
Halep, the runner-up at Roland Garros in 2014 and a year ago, played poorly in the first set, with only four winners and 16 unforced errors. But she had 16 winners and 12 unforced errors the rest of the way, while Riske made more and more mistakes.
Serena and Venus Williams won their first Grand Slam doubles match in nearly two years.
The sisters moved into the second round by coming back for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over the 14th-seeded Japanese pairing of Shuko Aoyama and Miyu Kato in front of a Court 3 crowd that raucously supported the Americans.
The Williams-Williams duo last competed at a major tournament together at Wimbledon in 2016. They won their 14th Grand Slam title in women’s doubles at the All England Club.
This return to doubles came a day after Serena Williams participated in Grand Slam singles for the first time in 16 months, winning her first-round match. Venus Williams lost in the first round of singles on Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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