Experience counts as Zverev soars into semis

 - Alex Sharp

German No.22 seed repeats his 2022 run with victory over Etcheverry

Alexander Zverev, 1/4 de finale Roland-Garros 2023©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Roland-Garros 2023 is a tale of resurgence for Alexander Zverev.

The former world No.2 suffered a three-ligament tear in his right ankle last June during his finely poised semi-final against Rafael Nadal

A year on and the 26-year-old dismissed Argentine breakout star Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to roar back into the final four for a third consecutive year.

Story of the match

World No.49 Etcheverry, who prior to this match was the only man left in the draw yet to drop a set, has similar qualities to his far more experienced opponent.

They both have heavy serves, dogged defence and good angles on their groundstrokes, and are more than happy to canvass the net. Who could bring the sharpest skillset?

The Argentine staved off break point in a bruising six-minute opening hold; these in-form athletes were settling in for the long haul. 

Zverev's backhand drop shot was purring and his rocket returns caused much of the damage as the German chalked up a 4-3 break lead. The 2020 US Open runner-up was dragging Etcheverry from side to side with relentless groundstrokes, taking the opener with a smooth performance.

Etcheverry began to show the form that has conjured up a 17-8 record on clay this campaign, including final showings in Santiago and Houston. At 3-2 a couple of passing forehands enabled the 23-year-old to pull clear.

The unseeded Argentine was building momentum, but in stark contrast Zverev hit a routine smash long and untimely double faults gifted Etcheverry the chance to level.

The world No.49 broke to love to start the third set, his disguised forehand drop shot a highlight as he went up 2-0. 

Back roared Zverev, digging deep into his reserves of experience stealing the set with five games in a row of steady point construction.

Stuck at the service line, Zverev dropped his racket to clip a delicate drop volley over the net, a magic moment for the German en route to clinching the vital break at 3-3.

He patiently erased two break points with a barrage of backhands and withstood Etcheverry's last roll of the dice groundstrokes to finally add his name to the semi-final line-up.

Alexander Zverev & Tomas Martin Etcheverry / Quarts de finale Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Key stats

Zverev's serve is a pretty accurate barometer of his form and feelings. The 26-year-old cracked seven aces, but surrendered nine double faults. The German did land 67 per cent of first serves to help control the points.

Etcheverry's chances hinged on how clinical he was on break opportunities. The unseeded world No.49 could only convert three out of nine as Zverev escaped from plenty of tricky spots.

The German reaches his sixth Grand Slam semi-final, posting his third consecutive Roland-Garros final four appearance.

What the players said

Zverev on returning to the semi-finals: "The 5-4 game [fourth set] was incredible from both of us. He was hitting the ball extremely hard, I was hitting the ball extremely hard, so at the end of the day, I think, I hope I deserve to win. I'm just happy to be through.

A year on after horror injury: "It was the most difficult year of my life. I love tennis with all my heart, I love the competitiveness and that was taken away exactly one year ago. I'm so happy to be back at this stage, I'm so happy to have the opportunity to play for a final at Roland-Garros again, so I can't be happier."

Credit to Etcheverry: "He's playing incredible tennis. He reminds me a lot of Del Potro, the way he plays, the way he hits his forehand especially. He's an incredible player, if he continues like this he's going to be in the quarter-finals here a lot more often, that's for sure.

"He can be top 10, he can win big tournaments. He proved it this week and I wish nothing but the best for him, to continue in this way."

Etcheverry on his breakthrough run: "These two weeks changed my life. Today was an incredible experience for me to play in the Philippe-Chatrier stadium. Alexander played incredible tennis today, but I had my chances in the third set and fourth set. It's all positive for me."