Virus-hit Zverev slumps to shock Struff defeat at Indian Wells

Los Angeles (dpa) – Alexander Zverev was stunned in an all-German clash at the Indian Wells tournament after he lost 6-3, 6-1 to Jan-Lennard Struff in the third round on Monday.The 21-year-old world number three handed the first break to Struff with a backhand error to fall 4-2 behind, and he never recovered as his frustrations grew. Zverev had four chances to break back and rescue the set, but a determined Struff stood firm to serve successfully for the lead. An out-of-sorts Zverev couldn’t find composure in the second set as he slammed his racket down following a net error to release break points. The 2018 ATP Finals champion says his poor performance was due to a virus.

“I have been sick for a week. That hasn’t changed, unfortunately,” said Zverev. “I don’t think I overplayed or anything like that. I think I just got unlucky, I got a virus somewhere, and that’s how it is.” The 28-year-old Struff, who had previously never beaten Zverev, unleashed a punishing forehand to earn a double-break 4-1 advantage, before Zverev conceded the match miserably with a double-fault after 70 minutes. Struff moves on to face Canada’s Milos Raonic, who rallied back from a set down to overcome American Marcos Giron 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 for his place in the last 16. World number one Novak Djokovic will continue his match tomorrow after play was suspended for the day due to rain. He leads German Philipp Kohlschreiber 1-0.

The winner of that match will play Frenchman Gael Monfils, who advanced following a 6-0, 6-3 win over Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Austrian seventh seed Dominic Thiem is through after he dispatched Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1 and he goes on to meet Croatian Ivo Karlovic, who bettered India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-3, 7-6 (7-3). The impressive run of Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime has come to an end after he lost in a sudden death tie-breaker to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-5). Nishioka will face Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic next after he dismissed compatriot Laslo Djere 6-2, 7-6 (7-3). In the women’s draw, eighth seed Angelique Kerber also had to battle from behind as Germany’s reigning Wimbledon champion bested Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 in one hour and 53 minutes.

“I think it gives me again confidence that I can turn around matches,” said Kerber. “I can play three sets and also in the close moments that I’m there, that I can trust myself.” Kerber will meet ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus after she conquered Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 7-5. “I never played against her, I know a little bit about her,” Kerber commented on facing Sabalenka. “It will be a new match. We are starting from zero, both, and I will try to play like I finished the match today.” World number one Naomi Osaka continued her fine form in California with a 6-4, 6-2 win against American Danielle Collins. American seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams progressed after the 38-year-old, who came back from a set and a double-break down against Petra Kvitova in the previous round, dispatched fellow American Christina McHale 6-2, 7-5.

Williams will face Germany’s Mona Barthel next after she dismissed her compatriot Julia Goerges in three sets 7-5, 1-6, 6-4. Karolina Pliskova eased through to the next round with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure. The fifth-seeded Czech Pliskova moves on to face Estonian Anett Kontaveit, who was put through after her opponent Anastasija Sevastova retired at 5-0.

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