Second-seeded Alexander Zverev has reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal the hard way, beating Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (4), 2,6, 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday for his third straight comeback win in five sets.
The latest gritty victory came with the usual temper flare-ups from Zverev. But the German player also showed, once again, that he knows how to dig deep when it matters. In all three of his five-setters at Roland Garros he has trailed 2-1 in sets.
“I’m young. I might as well stay on court and entertain you guys,” the 21-year-old Zverev joked with the crowd. “This definitely paid off, the hours in the gym every day ... Everything comes together slowly and I’m happy to be here.”
Zverev says he spends up to four hours each day working on weights and fitness in the gym.
He might well need to up that schedule considering his quarterfinal opponent is No. 7 Dominic Thiem of Austria, who is one of the fittest players on the men’s circuit and has reached the past two semifinals at Roland Garros.
Thiem beat No. 19 Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-2, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 on Court Philippe Chatrier. He missed an easy forehand on his first match point, biting down on his fingers in frustration. He converted on his next chance when Nishikori’s looping return landed long.
Nishikori won just 14 points in the first set and nine in the second, losing to Thiem for the first time.
“The first two sets were amazing,” Thiem said.
On Court Suzanne Lenglen, Zverev’s smash at the net gave him match point, which he took when Khachanov netted a forehand.
Zverev sank to his knees in celebration. He then patted Khachanov, a friend from their junior days, sympathetically on the chest before pumping his arms in celebration.
As in the previous two rounds, Zverev was struggling for consistency. This was illustrated in the 10th game of the second set.
Zverev serving for the set at 5-4, he soon trailed 0-40.
Then, in a blur Zverev won the next four points to give himself a set point — only to miss a smash from near the back of the court. An ace gave him another set point but he missed that one, too, putting a low volley into the net.
On his third set point, the erratic Zverev found the net again with a sloppy backhand. Khachanov punished him and broke for 5-5.
The second-set tiebreaker was scrappy, Zverev clinching it with an ace out of Khachanov’s reach to level the match.
Zverev has youth on his side, but he has been spending long on court and his body is showing it.
At the start of the fifth set, he had a medical time out for treatment for an apparent blister on his left foot.
It did not seem to impede him, however.
He broke immediately for a 1-0 lead and jumped around on court, waving his arms to get the crowd going.
Later Sunday, Novak Djokovic was facing Fernando Verdasco on Court Philippe Chatrier, where he won the last of his 12 major titles in 2016.
In women’s play, Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys both hit a career milestone on Sunday, reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open at Roland Garros, giving both an appearance in the final eight of all four majors.
The 10th-seeded Stephens, who won the U.S. Open in 2017, beat No. 25 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-2, 6-0 in a match that lasted just 52 minutes in Paris.
“I think that’s pretty cool,” Stephens said, via the Tennis Channel. “A lot of girls dream of making quarters or semis, and now that I’ve done that at all four Slams that’s pretty awesome. That was definitely a goal, and I’m glad to finally make it through to the quarterfinals here.”
The 13th-seeded Keys also put on a strong performance in a 6-1, 6-4 win over No. 31 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania.
“It’s awesome. I mean, I can’t really think of another word,” said Keys afterward. “This was always the one where it was the most difficult for me, and it was always the toughest one to feel like I could play well here. So to be able to get to the quarterfinals really means a lot.”
Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Francesca Schiavone, Simona Halep, Vera Zvonareva, Dominika Cibulkova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova are the only other active players to have reached all four quarterfinals, according to the WTA.
Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Croatia’s Mate Pavic cruised into the quarterfinals of the French Open mixed doubles tournament with a 6-2, 6-3 win over France’s Eduoard Roger-Vasselin and Andrea Sestini Hlavackova of the Czech Republic on Sunday.
The top-seeded pair of Dabrowski and Pavic finished off their opponents in just 55 minutes, firing five aces and converting three of five break point opportunities.
Pavic and Dabrowski will face Demi Schuurs and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands in Monday’s quarterfinals.
Dabrowski won the mixed doubles title in Paris last year with India’s Rohan Bopanna. She also won the Australian Open mixed title this year with Pavic.
Dabrowski will also return to women’s doubles action Monday when she teams with China’s Yifan Xu for a third-round match against the Japanese duo of Makoto Ninomiya and Eri Hozumi.