Zverev reaches first major quarter-final

 - Kate Battersby

No.2 seed toils to victory over Khachanov - his third straight five-set win in Paris this year.

Alexander Zverev célèbre sa victoire face à Karen Khachanov, Roland-Garros 2018©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

One by one, Alexander Zverev is slaying the more uncomfortable statistics of his Grand Slam career to date – although the style of his progress at Roland-Garros 2018 is less than dazzling.

The No.2 seed defeated Karen Khachanov 4-6 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3 6-3 on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to reach the very first Grand Slam quarter-final of his career. But this fourth-round victory was the third successive match here where Zverev has toiled to a five-set win.

Throughout the match the German’s mood varied from disconsolate to huffy, and was not helped by a fourth-set warning for coaching.

“I thought it was a bit ridiculous,” responded Zverev. “I was breathing and looking towards the fans, and I hear in the back of my head ‘Code violation’. I thought he [Khachanov] did something. I turned around. He [the umpire] was, like, it's for me.

“Well, I'm on the other side of the court. I don't think my dad or anybody in my box can show me or would say something that I would hear inside that big stadium. So for me it was nonsense.”

When Khachanov’s punchy forehand was at its line-kissing best, Zverev could find no answer; but even when it wasn’t, he still struggled to stamp any authority on the encounter.

Nonetheless, at 21 Zverev becomes the youngest quarter-finalist here since Juan Martin del Petro eight years ago. He will face Dominic Thiem for a place in the last four.

Asked what he learned about himself in the match, Zverev said: “Nothing. I know who I am. It's not about learning anymore. It's about trying to find a way to win. I'm very happy about being in the quarter-finals here the hard way, going the long distance every single time and showing myself, showing everybody, that I can play for as long as I need to.

“Sometimes you've got to be emotional. Sometimes you've got to be quiet. Sometimes you've got to get the crowd involved. Sometimes you don't. In this match I had to get myself going and the crowd a little bit, so it gets a little louder. You know, I successfully did so.”

Indeed, for some observers, these last three matches have been evidence of Zverev’s outstanding levels of fitness; for others, they expect that a No.2 seed at a Grand Slam should not find himself having to play three five-setters in the first place. It all depends on perspective.

Similarly, maybe all Zverev’s words come across as fiercer on the page than they actually sounded in person. His humour came through when he was asked how happy and relieved he is to be in a Grand Slam quarter-final at last.

“I'm very pissed off about it,” he smiled, to laughter. “I want to be home right now. No, I mean, I think you can answer that question yourself. I'm happy. But this is not the end. This is the quarter-finals. It's not Sunday.”

Then he remembered what day of the week this is, and checked himself with a grin.

“I mean, it is Sunday, but I mean, like, a week later Sunday, not this Sunday.”