Reigning Madrid Open champion Alexander Zverev began his title defence on Wednesday with a tough three-set win against Marin Cilic at Manolo Santana Stadium, here. The German made a slow start in the second-round meeting, but found his range as the match went on. He fired 11 aces and hit his heavy groundstrokes with more authority in the second and third sets to maintain his strong record against the Croatian, advancing 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. "I thought I played very well. I just lost focus in the first set. But I am happy with the win and I am happy to be though. Marin is a difficult opponent, especially with the altitude here, so I am happy with this match," Zverev said. Following his two-hour, 17-minute triumph, the 25-year-old has earned 16 match victories in Madrid, his best record at any Masters 1000 event.
The second seed will aim to make it 17 when he takes on American Sebastian Korda or Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the third round. "It helps to be on this court again. It is always great to have those memories in the back of your mind," Zverev said when reflecting on his past results in Madrid. "But I have to have this year on my mind and I have to focus on playing well and hopefully I can do that this week," he added. The World No 3 is looking to lift his first trophy of the season in Madrid, after falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals at the first clay-court Masters 1000 of the year in Monte Carlo. On the other hand, Cilic was aiming to clinch his first Top 5 win since 2018, when he downed the then-World No 1 Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open quarter-finals.