Sun, Jun 03, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Zverev digs deep to win epic five-setter

‘TOO MUCH PATIENCE’:Novak Djokovic struggled at times before beating Roberto Bautista Agut in four sets to reach the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the 43rd time


France’s Lucas Pouille returns to Russia’s Karen Khachanov in their French Open men’s singles third-round match at Roland Garros in Paris on Friday.

Photo: AFP

German second seed Alexander Zverev on Friday saved a match point in a comeback to defeat Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur in five sets to reach the French Open fourth round, while former champion Novak Djokovic made the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the 43rd time.

World No. 29 Dzumhur also served for the match in the fourth set, but Zverev clung on and claimed a 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 victory.

Zverev, 21, who is seen as the main threat to Rafael Nadal’s expected coronation as champion for an 11th time, endured a nightmare outing on Court Philippe Chatrier that lasted almost four hours.

He hit 73 unforced errors, dropped serve eight times and served up seven double faults.

He had to save a match point in the 10th game of the decider before breaking and holding to make the last 16 for the first time, where he is to face either French 15th seed Lucas Pouille or Russia’s Karen Khachanov.

The match between Pouille and Khachanov was one of two men’s matches not completed as rain curtailed play at 7:10pm, before being called off for the evening an hour later with the Russian leading 6-3, 7-5, 1-1.

“It was an amazing, high-level match,” Zverev said after his first-ever win on Chatrier. “It was the first time I have won on this court and I hope there are many more to come.”

Zverev, who also had to fight back from two sets to one down in the second round against Serbian Dusan Lajovic, is looking to become the first German man to win the title since 1937.

However, he has never reached a Grand Slam quarter-final, although the longer best-of-five format has worked twice in his favor now at Roland Garros.

Djokovic claimed a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 win over a grieving Roberto Bautista Agut.

The 31-year-old former world No. 1 struggled at times on Court Suzanne Lenglen, but eventually came through the four-set battle in 3 hours, 48 minutes.

Djokovic has now made the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the 43rd time, tying Jimmy Connors on the all-time list, second only to Roger Federer’s tally of 60.

Djokovic, seeded 20 after struggling to find his best form since returning from an elbow injury, is to take on Fernando Verdasco for a last-eight place after the Spaniard knocked out fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov.

The Serbian has now made the second week at Roland Garros for the past nine years in a row.

Bautista Agut was playing in Paris, despite the death of his mother last week.

“Fours hours for the match, I’m a bit tired, Bautista Agut plays with too much patience for me, but I’m very happy to have won the match,” Djokovic said.

Verdasco, 34, inflicted an early exit on Dimitrov, with the Spaniard winning 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-4 in his 350th clay-court match.

Bulgarian Dimitrov, a two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, has still never reached the second week at Roland Garros in eight attempts.

“You have to draw the line and, you know, look for the next chapter,” the world No. 5 said.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori made short work of home hope Gilles Simon as he cruised into the fourth round for the fifth time.

The 28-year-old, seeded 19th in his first Grand Slam since Wimbledon last year after struggling with a wrist injury, saw off Simon 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.

Nishikori is next to play Austrian Dominic Thiem, the only man to beat Nadal on clay this year, after the seventh seed beat Italian Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2.

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