Alexander Zverev And Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Go Down In Big Upsets

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Both the superstars in utero—Alexander Zverev, fresh off his first Masters title, and Nick Kyrgios, dealing with a hurt hip—drew tough first-round matchups. One flamed out while the other sailed through in straights, but the results reversed expectations: if you couldn’t identify the very frustrated arms above, they belong to Zverev, who fell to unseeded Fernando Verdasco, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.


Zverev met that classically vacant postgame question—what do you think made the difference today?—with a fitting response: “I played absolute shit made the difference. It’s quite simple.”

His answer undersells the talents of Verdasco, a lefty Spaniard who bludgeons forehands and has beaten most of the greats in his long, mildly disappointing career; now at age 33, he’s basically a landmine lurking in any draw, a first-round matchup you’d rather avoid. After splitting the first two sets, the umpire suspended play, and when they resumed play on Tuesday morning a markedly worse Zverev got played off the court.

With the field as weak as it currently is, it’s tempting to get overeager about Zverev’s talents—he was among my candidates with any chance of upsetting Nadal—but revisit the surreal fact that the 20-year-old has yet to defeat a top 50 player in a best of five match. (Nick Kyrgios, meanwhile, moves onto the second round after beating the veteran Philipp Kohlscreiber 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3.)

Today the top Frenchman was dismissed from his home Slam. Twelfth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who finally seemed to be finding his feet on clay, was deflated by Renzo Olivo, a 25-year-old Argentine who had only played three other Grand Slam matches in his life. Tsonga played well when charging the net—his backhand volley in particular is a beautiful, knifing thing—but somehow couldn’t match Olivo from the baseline. This match was suspended yesterday, at the tail end of the fourth set, and this morning Tsonga lasted mere minutes before shuffling to the net in defeat.

Tsonga was a little more reserved in his post-upset remarks than Zverev. “Last week I won my first-ever clay tournament. And today I lost at the French Open. It’s the paradox of tennis,” said the 32-year-old Tsonga, after his worst run at this tournament since 2005. The French are now free to pin their hopes on Lucas Pouille, who just cleared the second round for the first time in his career, or, as always, Gael Monfils.