PARIS • Alexander Zverev's appetite for five-set marathons showed no signs of shrinking and even blisters on his toes could not stop the German from storming into his first Grand Slam quarter-final with a 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Karen Khachanov at the French Open yesterday.
Zverev had survived successive five-setters in the previous two rounds, including saving a match point against Damir Dzumhur in the last 32, but his fatigued legs and blistered feet again worked overtime to carry him over the finishing line against Russian Khachanov at Court Suzanne Lenglen.
"Well, I'm young, so I might as well stay on court, get some practice and entertain you guys," quipped the 21-year-old, bidding to become the first German man to win the French Open since 1937.
"Me and my brother are guys that spend three, four hours a day in the gym, lifting heavy weights, on the treadmill. It paid off today.
"It's the best, a five-set match. I've been down 2-1 every single time, but I'm unbelievably happy to be into the quarter-finals."
After looking down and out for much of the third set, second seed Zverev was fired up by a code violation for being coached from the stands by his father Alexander Sr midway through the fourth set and he vented his anger by instantly breaking for a 4-2 lead.
He was fortunate to survive a break point when serving for the set at 5-3, before drawing level at two sets apiece with an ace.
Despite calling on a trainer to treat blisters on his left toes before the start of the fifth set, the world No. 3 zipped around with ease to break in the opening game of the decider and finished off the 38th-ranked Russian after 31/2 hours.
With the win, Zverev ended his wait for a maiden Major last-eight appearance at his 12th attempt.
The German's previous best showing was also the last 16 at last year's Wimbledon.
He will next face Austrian seventh seed 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.
Thiem was the last man to get the better of claycourt maestro Rafa Nadal when he defeated the Spaniard at the Madrid Open last month. He was also a French Open semi-finalist the past two years.
"The first two sets were amazing but then he raised his level and it was 50-50," said Thiem of Nishikori.
"In the end it was very close... I love these conditions; it was the first time for me on Court Philippe Chatrier not playing against Rafa, so I could enjoy the court."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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