Comeback king Zverev reaches first Grand Slam quarter-final
Paris: German second seed Alexander Zverev claimed his third successive comeback win at the French Open to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final on Sunday, edging Russian Karen Khachanov in five sets.
The 21-year-old played some stunning tennis in the closing stages of a dramatic 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 fourth-round victory and 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.
World number 38 Khachanov has now lost at the last-16 stage at Roland Garros twice in a row, while Zverev ended his wait for a maiden major last-eight appearance at the 12th attempt.
"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 (Mischa) are guys that spend three, four hours a day in the gym, lifting heavy weights, on the treadmill. It paid off on Sunday." A tight first set heated up in the 10th game when Zverev saved two set points, the second after becoming incensed when the umpire overturned a line call of out from a Khachanov shot.
But the Russian sealed the set at the third time of asking, leaving the world number three needing a fightback for the third consecutive match.
There was excitement at the end of the second set too as a marathon game saw Zverev fail to serve it out to level the match, firing long on Khachanov's fifth break point after wasting three set points.
But the German gathered himself, taking a tie-break as the momentum swung back in his favour.
That proved a false dawn for Zverev, though, as Khachanov eased through the third set with some powerful hitting.
But Zverev, as he did in his wins over Dusan Lajovic and Damir Dzumhur, forced a decider, sealing the set with an ace after saving two break points.
And he secured an impressive victory, finishing the match with 63 winners and 17 aces.
Thiem, the only man to beat Rafael Nadal on clay this year, held off a short-lived Nishikori revival on Court Philippe Chatrier to set up a clash with Zverev.
"I think that's the matchup most of the fans in Germany and Austria were hoping for when they saw the draw," he said.
"He's an amazing player. I mean, probably now the third-best after Rafa and Roger (Federer). So it's going to be an amazing challenge for me." Former champion Novak Djokovic faces Fernando Verdasco later in the day, looking to reach the last eight of a Grand Slam for the first time since Wimbledon last year.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic overcomes Fernando Verdasco in straight sets to reach quarter-finals of French Open. The 30-year-old Serb won 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 and moved into the quarter-finals of the French Open.
Djokovic is building his form very nicely here in Paris. Every match he looks more like the man who won here in 2016 and less like the one who, at the start of the year, lost three matches in a row for the first time since 2007.
This match was scrappy at times and Djokovic hit 29 unforced errors and 21 winners, but he moved well and looked very secure defensively. He is not going to blast through anyone just yet, but he will be a very difficult man to put away.
The 12-time major champion is still finding his feet after having elbow surgery in February, but he has been allowed to gradually build towards his peak here.
He has certainly been helped by the luck of the draw. After his absence from the tour due to injury, his ranking has fallen such that he was seeded only 20th here in Paris, which guarantees precious little protection.
He could have been drawn to face Rafael Nadal in the third round but instead he has not played anyone inside the world's top 10 so far. He cannot face Nadal before the final and, if Djokovic makes it that far, he will surely be in a better position than anyone to challenge the great Spaniard's dominance.