The History Books Await Zverev
If you’re going to break through to your first Grand Slam quarter-final, you might as well do it in style, right?
No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev came back from two sets to one down for the third consecutive match on Sunday, defeating Karen Khachanov to set a blockbuster quarter-final against two-time Roland Garros semi-finalist Dominic Thiem. And in doing so, Zverev joined an elite group.
The German 21-year-old is the eighth player in the Open Era to survive three consecutive five-setters in Paris, and the first since Tommy Robredo in 2013. He is also the first to win three five-setters in a row at a major since Sam Querrey at Wimbledon last year.
It was a long time coming for Zverev, who despite having won three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles out of five finals, had never advanced past the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam in 11 previous appearances.
“I know who I am. It's not about learning anymore. It's about trying to find a way and trying to win,” Zverev said. “I'm very happy about being in the quarter-finals here with going the hard way, going the long distance every single time and showing myself, showing everybody that I can play for as long as I need to.”
Players To Win Three Consecutive Five-Setters At Roland Garros (Open Era)
It won’t get any easier for this year’s Madrid and Munich champion, who next faces No. 7 seed Thiem. The Austrian is the only player to beat top seed Rafael Nadal on clay in the past two years, and has lifted trophies this year in Buenos Aires and Lyon, although Zverev did beat him to triumph in Madrid.
“I'm expecting another five-set match,” Zverev said with a smile. “I'll get myself ready for that.”
And if he should defeat Thiem in five sets, he would become the first player in tennis history to triumph in four straight five-setters at a Grand Slam championship. Only four players have won four non-consecutively at a major, the last being Albert Costa at Roland Garros 15 years ago. The Monaco resident is not worried about the number of long matches adding up — he has spent 11 hours and 56 minutes on court through four rounds.
“I’m not concerned,” Zverev said. “If you're mentally fatigued, then something is wrong with you. Physically, obviously it's not easy to play back-to-back-to-back five-set matches. But I will manage it, somehow. I will do everything I can to recover, as I said after the last match. I will make sure to be ready in two days' time.”
Zverev, who was 4-5 in five-setters before this tournament, is not content to just break through. Three players in the Open Era have won three five-setters on the Parisian terre battue and gone on to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires. The German wants to become the fourth.
“I'm happy. But this is not the end," Zverev said. "This is the quarter-finals. It's not [championship] Sunday.”