Zverev survives in five

 - Matt Trollope

The No.2 seed saves a match point to claim his first win over a top-50 opponent at a Grand Slam event.

Alexander Zverev moved through to the fourth round at Roland-Garros following a nervy five-set affair against No.26 seed Damir Dzumhur.

The second seed saved a match point in the 10th game of the final set before going on to beat the Bosnian 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6(3) 7-5.

Incredibly, it was his first victory over a top-50 opponent at a major tournament in eight attempts.

He reaches the last 16 in Paris for the first time and will face the winner of the match between No.15 seed Lucas Pouille and Russian Karen Khachanov.

Zverev was extended to five sets against world No.68 Dusan Lajovic in the previous round, and now owns a winning record in five-set matches (5-4) at Grand Slams.

“I think it was important to kind of see for myself that I can win back-to-back five-set matches and both very difficult physical matches,” Zverev said.

“I was feeling fine physically, so for me that gives me a lot of confidence going deep into the fifth set, going long matches on this kind of surface. And knowing that I'm fit enough to last as long as I want. So this gives me a lot of confidence, of course, and I think it was an important point to prove to myself, as well.”

That point very nearly wasn’t made on an overcast Friday on Chatrier.

After cruising through the first set, the second seed rallied increasingly passively and allowed the artful Bosnian – who charmed the crowd with his nimble footwork and delicate drop-shots – to run all over him and build a two-sets-to-one lead.

When Dzumhur scored another break of serve and pushed ahead 4-3, alarm bells were ringing. Following fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov’s earlier loss to Fernando Verdasco on No.1 Court, the men’s bottom half of the draw looked set to lose its two highest seeds within the space of an hour.

Yet Zverev claimed he wasn’t worried. “Mainly I was thinking what I was going to have for lunch at times,” he breezily explained.

“You try to win each point, you try to win each game. You're not thinking, Oh, how am I going to turn this match around? You're trying to win that exact point to be able to continue the match.

“That's more what's going on in your head. It's not about, I'm going to try to do this, try to do that in the third set, I'm going to do this in the fourth set or something like that. That's not the way it is.”

Alexander Zverev  à terre©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Perhaps it was Dzumhur with a cluttered mind. The Bosnian played a dreadful fourth game, committing four straight unforced errors to allow Zverev to break back at 4-4. The set progressed to a tiebreak, which Zverev controlled.

And when he went up 4-2 in the fifth, it looked as if he’d finally done enough to ensure victory.

But his game unravelled once again. He was broken at love in the eighth game, unable – or unwilling? – to pull the trigger on his normally powerful groundstrokes and struggling whenever he approached the net. He finished the match a forgettable 29-from-67 at net, a conversion rate of just 43 per cent.

After winning three straight games, Dzumhur arrived at match point when receiving at 4-5, but that opportunity was erased when the German produced an unreturnable serve out wide.

Zverev held, broke serve in the next game – surprisingly, with a forehand volley winner – and broke in the final game to seal the scratchiest, grittiest of victories.

“It's never easy,” Zverev admitted. “It's a Grand Slam. People play their best tennis at Grand Slams, especially on big courts against higher-ranked opponents. For me, this was a normal thing to see.

“I'm trying to win matches. If it takes me three sets, great. If it takes me five sets, that's also great. But I'm trying to win.

“Now I'm in the next round, and that's all that matters. I'm going to play in two days' time, and that's it. There is nothing more to it.”