PARIS (Reuters) - 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 major quarter-final with a 4-6 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3 6-3 French Open win over Karen Khachanov on Sunday.
The German 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 Khachanov.
“I am young so I might as well stay on court for a while and entertain you guys,” the 21-year-old Zverev told the cheering crowd after setting up a last-eight showdown with Austrian seventh seed Dominic Thiem.
“All the hours I have spent in the gym has definitely paid off as I was down two-sets-to-one in each of the three matches,” added the second seed, who became the youngest man to reach the quarter-finals at Roland Garros since 2009.
After looking down and out for much of the third set, Zverev was fired up by a code violation for allegedly 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.
“It was... ridiculous. I was on the other (end) of the court. I don’t think my dad or anybody in my box can show or say something that I would hear inside that big stadium. It was nonsense,” Zverev said.
The noise levels kept rising on Suzanne Lenglen Court as the duo kept going toe-to-toe.
Zverev was fortunate to survive a break point when serving for the set at 5-3, with Khachanov’s blazing forehand clipping the net cord and bouncing just millimeters behind the baseline.
While Khachanov’s misfiring racket felt the full force of his exasperation, with the Russian punching his strings with his clenched knuckles, Zverev fired down an ace moments later to draw level at two sets apiece.
Despite calling on a trainer to treat blisters on his left toes before the start of the fifth set, the world number three zipped around with ease to break in the opening game of the decider and finished off the 38th-ranked Russian after three-and-a-half hours of pulsating action.
Once Khachanov’s forehand was caught by the net, a beaming Zverev thumped his heart with his right palm before he sank to his knees and pumped both fists into the skies.
“It’s never easy to lose a match in five sets. I know that I gave my 100 percent today. I had my chances in the fourth set and in the fifth and didn’t take them,” said Khachanov, who failed to convert 12 of his 17 break point opportunities.
“This match could have gone either way, it was really close, it was a good fight (and in the end there was) just a few points’ difference. I gave everything on the court.”
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Fallon