Wednesday 19 December 2018

Zverev forced to dig deep once again to secure place in last eight

13 people detained in match-fixing probe (stock picture)
13 people detained in match-fixing probe (stock picture)

Simon Briggs

Alexander Zverev, the world No 3, has it all going for him: precocious sporting gifts and a physical resemblance to Michelangelo's David. Up until this fortnight, though, the pressure of the biggest tournaments had made him turn to stone.

Arriving in Paris, Zverev's win-loss record at grand slams stood at 14-11 - an underwhelming figure for a man touted as the next serial champion. Yet his form on the clay suggests that he is finally beginning to live up to his billing. Yesterday he scrapped his way into his first major quarter-final, even if he had to go the long way around.

Zverev's fitness trainer - the British former kickboxer Jez Green, who used to work with Andy Murray - has turned his tall and lanky client into such a fine physical specimen that Zverev has now spent almost 11 hours on the court at Roland Garros, yet remains full of running.

Against Karen Khachanov - a muscular Russian who stands level with him at 6ft 6in - Zverev repeated the pattern of his two previous matches by winning only one of the first three sets.

So far at the French Open, he has only come alive when his neck is on the line, covering huge slices of court with his long legs and bashing his exquisite backhand at high velocity. Most players try to hide their backhands, but Zverev - who leads the tournament standings with 55 winners off that wing - is at his most comfortable with two hands on the racquet.

"I'm young so I might as well stay on the court and practise a bit," said Zverev, after his 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win.

Elsewere, Novak Djokovic eased into the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Spain's Fernando Verdasco.

Irish Independent

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