In a clash between two former junior world #1’s, second seed Alexander Zverev takes on Ricardas Berankis. A 13-match winning streak took Zverev to titles in Munich and Madrid earlier in the clay court season, and the German also came close to defending his Rome title. Berankis, who finished 2007 as the top ranked junior in the world, has never managed to translate that success into his senior career, and is without a win at Roland Garros. Will he claim his first against Zverev?
This will be a first meeting between Zverev and Berankis, who are separated by 89 places in the rankings. Zverev is, however, significantly more decorated than the Lithuanian despite being six years younger than him. Berankis has managed 86 victories at Tour-level since turning professional eleven years ago. Zverev, despite only beginning his professional career in 2013, already has 147 match wins, and has lost only 78 matches, compared with Berankis who has suffered 95 defeats.
Last time out
Zverev’s last match ended in disappointment, but the German was no doubt able to reflect on a period of immense success all-the-same. The disappointment stemmed from defeat at the hands of Nadal and the failure to defend his Italian Open crown. But the German had extended Nadal to three sets, and if not for an unfortunately timed rain break that came with him leading in the decider, he might even have beaten him. And he still managed a 13 match winning streak and two titles.
Berankis has been absent from the Tour for awhile, playing his last competitive tennis in the Davis Cup clash between Finland and Lithuania in which he won both of his matches in straight sets. Before that, he won a Challenger title in St Brieuc on a hard court, defeating France’s Constantine Lestienne in three sets in the final. He hasn’t, however, played an opponent ranked inside the top 100 since losing to Radu Albot 1-6 6-4 6-7 in the first round in Miami.
How do they match up?
Zverev will look to dominate this match from the back of the court, using his immensely powerful groundstrokes, particularly his backhand which is unquestionably amongst the best in the game. Though perhaps lacking the versatility of Djokovic, Murray and Nishikori from that wing, the German can hit through the ball harder than almost anyone else with his backhand. It impressively stood up to the examination given to it by Nadal’s forehand for much of the final in Rome.
Berankis lacks the power of Zverev, perhaps unsurprising when it is remembered that the Lithuanian is the best part of a foot shorter than his opponent. But the world #92 is a very clean ball-striker and can rely on both his forehand and backhand not to breakdown, except under the most severe pressure. His serve, however, will need to be at its best if it is not to cost him. If Berankis gives Zverev the chance to return too many second serves, he will surely be defeated.
Zverev comes into this year’s French Open with much left to prove about his competitiveness over five-set matches. Losing the deciding set to love in Melbourne against Chung did not help his case. But for all his struggles at Slam-level, he has generally only lost to players most would consider more dangerous than Berankis, who it should be remembered has never won a match at the French Open. That barren streak will continue. Zverev to advance in straight sets.