Alexander Zverev was left dumbfounded by a moment of ingenuity from Daniel Altmaier in their first-round match at the Australian Open on Monday.
The German world No. 3 is one of the favourites to win the Australian Open. The 24-year-old – the reigning Olympic and Tour finals champion – has assumed the role of second favourite behind Daniil Medvedev after Novak Djokovic had his visa withdrawn.
The 24-year-old opened his campaign with a match against world No. 87 Daniel Altmaier and was making fairly serene progress, opening up a two-set advantage. However, in the second game of the third set, Altmaier produced an audacious moment that left Zverev stunned and confused.
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Having opened the second set with a hold to love, Zverev delivered a drop shot that appeared to have Altmaier on the run. In fact, the Olympic champion had put so much spin on his return that when it hit the hard court it jolted back towards Zverev's side of the court.
Altmaier thundered towards the net, getting there just in time to extend a deft flick of the wrist while literally hanging over the net to slap the ball away to win the point.
A perplexed Zverev looked at the umpire – perhaps in hope more than expectation – to see if Altmaier had infringed the rules. He hadn’t it turned out, leaving Zverev first to smirk and then laugh.
"Did he reach over?" asked Simon Reed on commentary. "I don’t think he did," added Reed before Miles Maclagan interjected to say:
"I think he did, but he is allowed to because it [the ball] bounced on his side. But it caught out Zverev, who was a little annoyed - he gave up on the point because he could have run that one down.”
A replay showed that Altmaier did well not to touch the net which would have involved him losing the point. All that was left for Zverev to do was ruefully laugh.
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