PARIS (Reuters) - For the second time in three days Alexander Zverev found himself two-sets-to-one down at the French Open and his poor run at the Grand Slams looked set to continue as he put his nearest and dearest through the wringer for more than three hours.
So when it seemed like the German was about to bow out at Roland Garros as he stood match point down at 4-5, 30-40 in the fifth set of his third round tussle with Bosnian Damir Dzumhur, what kind of turmoil was buzzing through his mind?
“None. Mainly I was thinking what I was going to have for lunch,” said a deadpan Zverev after completing his 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6(3) 7-5 great escape.
“When you’re down a match point, 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 what’s going on in your head.”
Staying in the moment, rather then getting tangled up in possible scenarios that may crop up during the nerve-shredding battle, allowed Zverev to get over some humps on Friday.
For the first time at a Grand Slam he beat a top 50 player.
For the first time at the French Open he reached the fourth round.
For the first time in his career he won a contest on the main Philippe Chatrier Court.
“It was a very tight match. It’s normal there were a lot of nerves involved. In that moment, it’s all about finding a way,” said the second seed who was also taken the distance by Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic in the second round.
“Even if you’re not playing your best, it’s all about finding a way to win and finding the right solution to the right moment.
“I’m trying to win matches. If it takes me three sets, great. If it takes me five sets, that’s also great,” added the 21-year-old who now has a 6-5 win-loss record in five setters.
“I’m trying to win. That’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter how long it goes. It doesn’t matter how much time I’ll spend on court. It doesn’t matter if it goes 9-7 in the fifth or it goes 6-1 6-1 6-2. I’m in the next round and that’s all that matters.”
With only one fourth round appearance to show for his 11 previous visits to the majors, the two five-set thrillers he has survived in Paris might turn into his coming-of-age moment.
It also answered a lot of questions Zverev had about his own ability to emerge unscathed from such bruising encounters.
“It was important to see for myself that I can win back-to-back five-set matches and both very difficult physical matches,” he 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. It was an important point to prove to myself as well.”
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris