Paris: Alexander Zverev’s appetite for five-set marathons showed no signs of shrinking and even blisters on his toes could not stop the German from storming into his first Major quarter-final with a 4-6, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 French Open win over Karen Khachanov on Sunday.
The German had survived successive five-setters in the previous two rounds, including saving a match point against Damir Dzumhur in the last-32, but his fatigued legs and blistered feet again worked overtime to carry him over the finishing line against Khachanov.
After looking down and out for much of the third set, Zverev was fired up by a code violation for being coached from the stands by his father Alexander Sr midway through the fourth set and he vented his anger by instantly breaking for a 4-2 lead.
He was fortunate to survive a break point when serving for the set at 5-3, with Khachanov’s blazing forehand clipping the net cord and bouncing just millimetres behind the baseline, before drawing level at two sets apiece with an ace.
Despite calling on a trainer to treat blisters on his left toes before the start of the fifth set, the world number three zipped around with ease to break in the opening game of the decider and finished off the 38th-ranked Russian after three-and-a-half hours of pulsating action.
"Well, I'm young, so I might as well stay on court, get some practice and entertain you guys," smiled Zverev, who is bidding to become the first German man to win the French Open since 1937.
"Me and my brother are guys that spend three, four hours a day in the gym, lifting heavy weights, on the treadmill. It paid off today."
The 21-year-old will next face Dominic Thiem who reached a third successive quarter-final in Paris by seeing off Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4.
The Austrian seventh seed, the last man to beat claycourt machine Rafa Nadal on his favourite surface, displayed an impressive arsenal of weapons in the first two sets before regaining his composure after the loss of the third.
Japanese 19th seed Nishikori, on the comeback trail after he ended his 2017 season in mid-year because of injury, seemed to lose interest in the match in the second set but eventually managed to put up a decent fight.
“The first two sets were amazing but then he raised his level and it was 50-50. In the end it was very close and I was a bit nervous in the end as it is always hard to serve to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open,” said Thiem, a semi-finalist here in 2016 and 2017.
“I love these conditions; it was the first time for me on Court Philippe Chatrier not playing against Rafa so I could enjoy the court," he joked.
Thiem had too much power and speed for Nishikori, who was overwhelmed in the opening set, which the Austrian bagged with an ace in under half an hour.
It got even worse for Nishikori in the second set as Thiem toyed with him, notably with a stunning drop-shot service return, and the Japanese could manage only nine points in the set.
In the first two sets, the Austrian won 25 of 25 points on his first serve.
In the third set, however, Nishikori stayed in touch as he served better and finished off points at the net, which unsettled Thiem who grew frustrated.
Nishikori seized his first break opportunity at 6-5 to take the set when Thiem’s forehand flew long.
The Austrian, who ended 10-times French Open champion Nadal’s streak of 50 consecutive sets won on clay in Madrid, broke decisively for 4-3 in the fourth set with a trademark forehand winner.
He then held serve throughout to wrap it up on his second match point when Nishikori sent a forehand long.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jun 03, 2018 20:03:33 IST