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Tennis News • Does Another Five-Setter Set up Zverev to Go All the Way on Clay?

By Ricky Dimon

For Alexander Zverev, at the U.S. Open it was all about surviving and advancing. Although he was never at his best throughout a most unusual fortnight in New York City, he still managed to reach the final of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career and he came without two points of winning the title.

Could a similar run be in store at Roland-Garros?

If Zverev’s second-round match on Wednesday was any indication, it is very possible.

It’s not that Zverev was spectacular against Pierre-Hugues Herbert; not by any stretch of the imagination. But the way in which he got the job done brought back memories of his recent run at Flushing Meadows–where he survived a competitive but terrible match against Borna Coric in the quarterfinals before coming back from two sets down to beat Pablo Carreno Busta in the semis. Against Herbert, the 23-year-old German double-faulted 11 times and finished with that exact margin of more unforced errors (56) than winners (45). He won only 42 percent of his second-serve points and was broken six times.

Nonetheless, Zverev prevailed 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4 in three hours and 59 minutes.

“Tennis is a very easy sport when you’re playing at your best,” the world No. 7 explained. “It’s not easy when you aren’t. Today I was not at my best, but I found a way. I get to play another day. At the US Open I wasn’t playing great in the early rounds and I hope that ends up being similar to here.”

And it’s not like he was playing some slouch in Herbert.

“For me he is one of the toughest players to play because I have absolutely no rhythm,” Zverev added. “He played really well today.”

It is true that Zverev will have to play better if he wants to better his best-ever result on the red dirt of Paris–quarterfinal finishes in each of the past two seasons. But the fact that he stayed mentally tough throughout the battle with Herbert is encouraging. Even more encouraging is the fact that there are no other seeded players in his eighth of the draw. The No 8 seed will face Marco Cecchinato on Friday and would then run into either Jannik Sinner or Hugo Gaston in the round of 16.

There is just one small problem. Zverev’s expected quarterfinal foe? That would be Rafael Nadal.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.