Alexander Zverev saved a match point in a five-set victory over No. 26 seed Damir Dzumhur, his first victory over a Top 50 player in a Grand Slam tournament in eight attempts. (Anita Aguilar)
PARIS: the place was familiar. Painfully familiar. Maybe even fatally familiar. There was Alexander Zverev, trying to get to the fourth round of a major only for the second time in his career. Losing in the third round of the Australian Open earlier this year, a miserable fifth-set pot against Hyeon Chung-Zverev had promised to improve the game's biggest stages.
But there it was again, in the place, the abyss lurking. It was the subject of an inspired opponent, the 29th ranked Damir Dzumhur, attacking background hits, generating enough depth to push Zverev to remote corners of the court and throwing repeated drop shots, to better expose the No. 2 seed deficiencies in the front of the court.
"That's what he does," Zverev said. "That's what he's known for: A lot of drop shots, and the drop shots he was hitting were kind of ridiculous."
All the blows and turns of Dzumhur took him to the brink of a great victory before he succumbed, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5, six minutes before four hours Dzumhur had served for the game at 6-5 in the fourth set, only to drop love service and fall 5-1 in tie-break-nine of ten points lost, before losing the set completely.
Dzumhur did not leave, but he never left forever. The top-ranked Bosnian recovered from 2-4 in the fifth set to win three games in a row and keep a match point, with Zverev serving 4-5, 30-40-a nullified opportunity with a strong service winner headed to Dzumhur reverse.
CLOCK: party point, Zverev d. Dzumhur
It was another complicated chapter in the Saga of Sascha. Was not he supposed to be the elder in whom he finally intensified? If it is not necessarily a Slam champion, surely reaching the round of 16 was plausible. Zverev had recently reached the final in Rome, taking a third set of 3-1 against Rafael Nadal before losing after a rain delay. The other recent results of the 21-year-old clay player in Munich and Madrid had helped him win the second seed at Roland Garros.
But against Dzumhur, pbadivity once again threatened to derail Zverev. After taking the first set 6-2 in 26 minutes, he meekly surrendered to the next two. In the room, Zverev served in 4-all, love-40. While Zverev seemed ineffective and downright upset, Dzumhur was the one who stretched the outlines of the court, jubilant perhaps also with the memories of his only previous match, one won by Dzumhur last fall in Shenzhen, 6-4, 7-5.
"It was really special, a special match for me," said Dzumhur, despite the defeat. "The whole stadium was just amazing, and I felt that energy from the crowd, and I really liked it, I enjoyed the whole game."
When asked about the internal battles within his head, Zverev offered one response at a time Sincere and curious.
"Mainly, I thought about what I was going to eat sometimes," he said. "But, I mean, like I said, you try to win every point, you try to win every game, when you're down at a match point, you're not thinking," Oh, how am I going to change this game? " You try to win that exact point in order to continue the game, that's more what's happening in your head. "
But for the second straight game, Zverev had lost two sets to one and recovered to win.
"I felt good physically, so for me that gives me a lot of confidence in the fifth set, playing long games on this type of surface," Zverev said. "And knowing that I'm able 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 myself too."
But he found that situation once more, in today's case, to a point of elimination, a revealing predicament of weakness or a rite of initiation revealing force?
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