(Please note this story contains language in sixth paragraph that readers may find offensive)
By Ossian Shine
PARIS (Reuters) – All shook up.
That summed up ninth seed Alexander Zverev after a dizzying 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-2 defeat by Fernando Verdasco.
Because not since 1957, when Elvis Presley’s hit of that name was the most played tune on U.S. jukeboxes, had an Italian Open champion been brought to his knees just days later in the first round at Roland Garros.
In fact, perhaps not since Nicolas Pietrangelli lost that French Open first round match in 1957 to Australian Mal Anderson had such claycourt momentum been halted.
Zverev, though, knew the reason.
“I played absolute shit,” he said. “It’s quite simple.
“You sometimes play bad. It’s just… this is our sport. There are no regrets. I mean, what can you do? In Rome I played fantastic, I won the tournament. Here I played bad, I lost first round. That’s the way it goes.”
But in truth the match may have been lost a day earlier, when it was halted due to poor light.
Three times champion Mats Wilander told Reuters that agreeing to stop had been a “rookie mistake” for the German.
“A ridiculous decision,” Wilander said. “He had all the momentum… the young guy should’ve just pushed on and insisted on playing. Thousands of people in the stadium missed out, we all missed out. (Verdasco’s) experience won through.”
Instead of continuing after grabbing the second set and the game’s momentum on Monday evening, Zverev agreed to halt play shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time.
When 33-year-old clay court specialist Verdasco resumed on Tuesday, he outmuscled the German who had no answer to the Spaniard’s punishing groundstrokes.
“He played very well, very smart. He tried to push me back,” said Zverev, who insisted he had been right to stop playing on Monday.
“I think we should have stopped earlier. They (organisers) said we can play until 9.30. It was the right decision to stop.”
The German was quick to put the performance in context.
“The world doesn’t stop now. I mean, I’m still No. 4 in the race to (the season ending championship in) London and I’m still doing OK this year. I won three tournaments so far. It’s not the end of the world, OK?
“Of course I should be concerned the way I played and the way I performed, but it’s nothing to be tragic about.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by John Stonestreet and Richard Lough)