PARIS • Alexander Zverev saved a match point and survived a second successive French Open scare yesterday, coming back to defeat Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur in five sets to reach the fourth round for the first time.
World No. 29 Dzumhur also served for the match in the fourth set, but second seed Zverev of Germany clung on and battled to 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 before claiming victory after almost four hours of play.
He had to save a match point in the 10th game of the decider before breaking and holding to make the last 16 in Paris for the first time.
"It was an amazing, high level match," said Zverev.
"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 Serb Dusan Lajovic, is looking to become the first German man to win the title since 1937.
His victory is unlikely to be welcomed by fiery Italian Fabio Fognini, who launched into a tirade against supposed preferential treatment for the ATP's "NextGen" players at the French Open.
The 18th seed said it was unfair that young players who have yet to impress at Grand Slam tournaments are given matches on show courts, claiming they should "eat more pasta, run and win matches" before being hailed as stars.
The last male player to win his first Grand Slam tournament before turning 25 was Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open, with current youngsters like Zverev and Denis Shapovalov, 19, yet to make their mark on the biggest stage.
"This Next Generation thing is bull****, I don't like all this attention," Fognini told Italian media.
"Rafa at 18 won Paris, now we have Shapovalov who is 25 in the world, is improving but at the same time plays the first match on the Suzanne Lenglen court and the second on Court No. 1."
Shapovalov was knocked out in the second round by world No. 70 Maximilian Marterer on Thursday, while fellow young hopefuls Chung Hyeon and Andrey Rublev are missing through injury.
The ATP has promoted its young guns through their "NextGen" series since the start of last season, playing a "NextGen" Finals in Milan last year for the best eight players aged 21 and under.
Added Fognini: "I don't agree with all this attention given to these young players."
Meanwhile, Grigor Dimitrov's clay-court gremlins struck again, as his French Open hopes bit the dust in predictable fashion in the third round against Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco.
The 27-year-old Bulgarian has still never reached the fourth round in Paris and he admitted after bowing out 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-4 that he will have to go back to the drawing board.
In the women's draw yesterday, Elina Svitolina's tournament breakthrough was again put on hold, when the Ukrainian fourth seed was knocked out 6-3, 7-5 in the third round by Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu.
The 23-year-old Svitolina dropped serve five times and made 29 unforced errors, bowing out on the first match point when she buried another forehand into the net.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Day 7, Singtel TV Ch114/116 & StarHub Ch208/210, 5pm