June 1, 2018 / 1:47 PM / 24 days ago

Zverev comes back from brink to reach French Open last 16

PARIS (Reuters) - Second seed Alexander Zverev saved a match point on his way to a grinding five-set win over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6(3) 7-5 in the third round of the French Open on Friday, securing his first trip to the last 16 at Roland Garros.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 1, 2018 Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates after winning his third round match against Bosnia and Herzegovina's Damir Dzumhur REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

It was the first victory for Zverev against a top 50 player in a Grand Slam, breaking a poor run of form in the majors that had left some commentators wondering whether the much-hyped Wunderkid would live up to the high expectations around him.

The German, 21 in April, looked to be on the brink of another disappointing early exit from a Grand Slam, with 26th seed Dzumhur serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set. But Zverev held his nerve to force a tie break, which he won comfortably.

Matching Zverev for power and stamina and showing a fine touch, with multiple winning drop shots, Dzumhur took the match to his bigger opponent, pushing the German to his second five-set encounter in a row.

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 1, 2018 Germany's Alexander Zverev consoles Bosnia and Herzegovina's Damir Dzumhur after winning their third round match REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

In their only previous meeting, last year on a hard court in Shenzen, Dzumhur won in straight sets and he showed confidence throughout on Friday, until the closing stages.

While Zverev, whose brother Mischa is also playing in the third round, reached the last 16 at Wimbledon last year, he has largely failed to live up to his world number three ranking in Grand Slams so far. That said, Federer didn’t win his first slam until he was 22.

The first set was a stroll for Zverev as he moved Dzumhur around the court and overpowered him down the lines.

Slideshow (3 Images)

But the Bosnian, born in Sarajevo after the start of the war, learning to play on a shattered high-school court, showed fitness and guile, changing tactics and varying the pace to throw Zverev off his rhythm in the second and third sets.

Serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth, he seemed to rush himself and lost his composure, losing the game to love and leaving the door open for Zverev to claw his way back.

“I wasn’t mentally ready to win the match in the fourth set,” Dzumhur said afterwards. “Zverev played smart, he let me make mistakes and he took his chance.”

In the fifth set, Dzumhur held match point with Zverev serving down 4-5, but the German pulled out a fine first serve, hitting the line and forcing Dzumhur wide on his backhand. Zverev eventually clinched the game after a six-minute battle.

The win notches up the 33rd tour-level victory for Zverev this year, more than any other player. He’ll be hoping to carry that momentum through into the second week of Roland Garros, although he faces some tough hurdles ahead.

In the last 16, he’ll play the winner between France’s Lucas Pouille and hard-hitting Karen Khachanov of Russia.

Reporting by Luke Baker; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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