PARIS (AP) — Alexander Zverev is climbing up the short list of players who might thwart Rafael Nadal’s quest for a record-extending 11th French Open title.
Despite having never played a five-set match at Roland Garros before this year, the second-seeded German has shown mettle and a cool head in winning two back-to-back.
He is shifting his 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) frame around the red dust with increasing comfort. And he is into the fourth round of the French Open for the first time.
Zverev saved match point in a 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win over Damir Dzumhur on Friday. The victory was the 21-year-old German’s first on Court Philippe Chatrier, and he immediately got a taste for it.
“Hopefully many more to come,” he said in his post-match on-court interview.
The only breather in the high-intensity match was when Dzumhur collided with a ball boy after winning the third set. The chunky Bosnian, born in Sarajevo as the city was descending into war in 1992, and the ball boy were both looking skyward at a ball when they ran into each other. For a few anxious moments, the ball boy seemed hurt, lying on the dirt. But he picked himself up with Dzumhur’s help, and play resumed.
After Zverev ran away with the first set, Dzumhur deployed an array of deft drop shots to drag the lanky German to the net, where he was less effective. Zverev, so relaxed early on that he laughed when he completely missed a service return, began to lose his air of confidence, swapping it for an increasingly grim look of determination.
Dzumhur had match point on Zverev’s serve at 5-4 in the final set.
Zverev then broke Dzumhur in the next game. This time, the Bosnian’s use of drop shots backfired on him. Having again forced Zverev into the net with the short ball, he watched helpless as the German volleyed a forehand past him.
Zverev then held serve to secure his spot in the fourth round, only the second time he’s got that far at any major. The first was at Wimbledon last year.
Zverev, ranked third, has never been seeded as high as No. 2 at a major before. It is the first time since the 2006 Australian Open that someone other than Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray has been among the top two seeded players at a major.
So far, he’s living up to the billing.