To reach his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal, Alexander Zverev has had to do it the hard way. The real hard way. The German 21-year-old was in trouble for a third straight match, but for a third straight time he pulled through from 2 sets to 1 down to beat Karin Khachanov 4-6, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
“I’m very happy about being in the quarterfinals here, going the hard way, going long distance every single time and showing myself, showing everybody, that I can play for as long as I need to,” said Zverev.
“I started playing much better in the fourth and fifth set,” said Zverev. “[At the] beginning of the fourth set I thought, okay, I can turn this match around, especially when I saved a few break points.”
Khachanov had some chances in the second and again late in the match, but his forehand let him down.
“I didn’t win it today, but it’s a positive sign,” said Khachanov. “So hopefully next time I will win it… Match by match, I was playing better and better, and that shows that I increased [my] level. So with this [aspect], I’m really happy.”
Zverev becomes the first player at the French to win three straight 5-set matches since Tommy Robredo in 2013. And he’s come from two sets to one down three straight times, beating Dusan Lajovic, Damir Dzumhur and now the big Russian. Up next, will be a tasty quarterfinal showdown against Dominic Thiem.
The Austrian routed a sluggish Kei Nishikori early, then hung for a 6-2, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 win.
“I was playing very, very well in the beginning, had a great start,” Thiem said. “I played good tennis. I think he rose his level in set three and four. But at the end I’m happy with how it went today.”
Thiem is into his third straight French Open quarterfinal, with two semifinals the last two years. It was his first win in three tries over the Japanese.
“I just wasn’t there and maybe little bit nervous,” Nishikori said. “He was hitting very deep. And I kind of lost what I had to do on the court.”
Thiem leads Zverev 4-2 ahead of their Tuesday showdown.
“It’s going to be a very tough match against him. He’s going to be pumped. It’s his first quarterfinals. So he wants to move on, for sure,” Thiem said. “I hope I’m a little bit more experienced in this one.
“I think the match, especially in Germany and Austria, [is what] everybody was hoping for. So I think we can make it legendary, and that would be very nice.”
Novak Djokovic booked his spot in the quarters collecting his 200th career clay match win beating a Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
“I’m just taking it one match at a time, and right now, considering I played almost four hours in my last match, I felt pretty good physically today,” said Djokovic. “I had no problems to go the distance in long rallies and I won in the three sets against a player who is in form, especially for this surface. So that’s all positives for now.”
Djokovic on Tuesday will meet the surprise of the tournament, Marco Cecchinato. The Italian has never won a match in a Grand Slam but now the clay court specialist finds himself in his first career Slam quarter after stunning David Goffin 7-5, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.
“This is the best moment of my life,” Cecchinato said. “Maybe it’s a dream, because now I’m very, very happy for this match.”
Djokovic will be the big favorite on Tuesday.
“I have known of him for many years. I have practiced with him many times in Monte-Carlo,” Djokovic said. “He trained a lot where I reside, where I live. We trained a lot on hard court, clay courts. And we actually trained this year before the Monte Carlo tournament.
“For sure, he’s playing the tennis of his life. He won his first title recently… To pull out a big upset for Marco is quite impressive. Congratulations to him for a great tournament. And even though he’s not a seeded player, he’s still in the quarter-finals. He deserves respect and he’s got nothing to lose in our next match. So I’ll approach it very seriously.”
Tomorrow, four more quarterfinal berths are on the line.
Rafael Nadal will take on Maximilian Marterer. Kevin Anderson takes on Diego Schwartzman, Marin Cilic meets Fabio Fognini.
In the big match – literally – Juan Martin del Potro takes on John Isner in a rematch of their Miami semifinal.
MONDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Court Philippe-Chatrier – Play starts at 11am
Simona HALEP (ROU)  vs Elise MERTENS (BEL) 
Rafael NADAL (ESP)  vs Maximilian MARTERER (GER)
Serena WILLIAMS (USA) vs Maria SHARAPOVA (RUS) 
Marin CILIC (CRO)  vs Fabio FOGNINI (ITA) 
Court Suzanne-Lenglen – Play starts at 11am
Diego SCHWARTZMAN (ARG)  vs Kevin ANDERSON (RSA) 
Angelique KERBER (GER)  vs Caroline GARCIA (FRA) 
John ISNER (USA) vs Juan Martin DEL POTRO (ARG) 
Garbiñe MUGURUZA (ESP)  vs Lesia TSURENKO (UKR)
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