MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Alexander Zverev overpowered Aljaz Bedene to win their first round clash at the Australian Open 6-4 6-1 6-4 on Tuesday, although it was not until the German lost an early service game that he was provoked to respond and get his campaign rolling.
The first set meandered until the 198 cm (6.5 ft) Zverev found himself down a break.
The 21-year-old became increasingly animated after losing his serve, and reeled off the next eight games.
Like a prizefighter facing a wilting opponent, Zverev pummelled Bedene for the remainder of the match, free-swinging his way to a straight sets victory.
“I mean, obviously I was a little bit sloppy in the beginning, a little bit sleepy maybe, and the break really was like a wakeup call, you know, that I have to start focussing and start playing from the first match on,” Zverev told journalists after the match.
Zverev, known as Sascha, has emerged as the leader of tennis’ new generation of men’s players, a reputation confirmed late last year by his maiden ATP Finals triumph where he beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in consecutive days.
He will play the winner of an all-French first round match between Jeremy Chardy and Ugo Humbert.
Few players have the arsenal to stay with Zverev who hits hard off both wings, and recorded an average first serve speed of 210 km/h during the match.
He also has a knack for making first serves when he is in trouble in a manner reminiscent of great servers such as Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.
But he was also susceptible to lapses on Tuesday, which included losing a service game to love in the third set despite otherwise dominating proceedings.
Zverev, who is yet to seriously challenge at a Grand Slam, is being mentored by new coach Ivan Lendl, an eight-time major winner who helped usher in a new tennis era with his relentless, powerful baseline game.
Lendl has been credited with elevating his former pupil Andy Murray to a level where he could start winning Grand Slams.
Zverev said that he hoped the new relationship would bear fruit in Melbourne.
“Things don’t just come together after you start working with someone one week or two weeks - it really takes time,” Zverev said.
“I hope now it’s going to be the period where it really starts showing.”
Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in Melbourne; editing by Amlan Chakraborty