Under the sunny but windy conditions at the Monte-Carlo country club in Monaco, second seed Alexander Zvereve of Germany opened his 2022 clay season with a straight-set win on Wednesday, beating Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-1, 7-5 to reach the third round. After the shocking exit of top seed Novak Djokovic one day before, Zverev, seeking his sixth ATP Masters 1000 title, remained the highest-ranked player in the tournament. A victory at Monte-Carlo would see the 24-year-old move closer to the top spot of the ATP rankings. "This is the only Masters on clay I haven't won yet, but I'm very motivated to do so," said Zverev, a 2018 semi-finalist at the event. "I'm very motivated to play great tennis and I hope I can show that on the court this week." Zverev was dominant in the first set, winning six games in a row after losing the opening game to take the lead. But his Argentine opponent fought back strongly in the second set, even reaching a set point at 5-2. But Zverev was so calm on the brink, saving the set-point and winning 11 straight points to move within a game of victory, reports Xinhua. The tough Delbonis saved a match point at 4-5 and another at 5-6 but failed in the third. "I think just coming back, never letting him get too far ahead," Zverev said.
"I broke him back twice, so that is helpful. If you're down 4-1, 5-2, something like that, it's not easy to come back." The world No. 3 will next face Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in the round of 16, as the latter advanced after his second-round rival Alexander Bublik retired in a three-set match. Earlier, newly-crowned Miami Masters champion Carlos Alcaraz suffered a shock defeat to American youngster Sebastian Korda in a 7-6(2), 6-7(5), 6-3 three-setter. The 21-year-old Korda, competing in Monte-Carlo for the first time, hit a decisive break in the deciding set to move 5-3 ahead, then served out to triumph in the heavy wind. "It was nice to get the victory today. I stayed calm and believed in my return. It was super tough, every time he threw up the ball it moved around. It was a crazy match," said the world No. 42, whose only tour-level title also came on clay in Parma last year. Next for Korda will be the winner between Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz or former US Open champion Marin Cilic. Fifth seed Andrey Rublev came from one set down to overcome Australian Alex de Minaur 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 to progress. It was the Russian's first head-to-head victory over Minaur after losing their previous two matches. Rublev will next play ninth seed Jannik Sinner for a place in the quarter-finals.