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Zverev Survives in 5 Sets At Roland Garros

Alexander Zverev rallied from 1-4 down in the final set to defeat Tallon Griekspoor and advance to the French Open fourth round for the seventh straight year. Photo credit: Getty

Chomping on the chains dangling around his neck, Alexander Zverev was staring down a 1-4 deficit in the fifth set today.

Striking with greater bite, Zverev three himself a lifeline pulling off a great escape in Paris.

Fighting back from a double break down in the decider, Zverev fended off talented Tallon Griekspoor 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(3) to reach the Roland Garros fourth round for the seventh straight year.

Two-time Rome champion Zverev scored his ninth consecutive clay-court win.

Zverev improved to 31-9 on the season, including a 13-3 mark on red clay. It wasn’t easy, but Zverev got some help from his opponent, who tightened up at times near the finish line, and asserted his authority in an aggressive tiebreaker.

Afterward, Zverev said he struggled to shorten points playing on a soggy day in Paris with the retractable roof closed over Court Philippe Chatrier.

“Honestly not my best match. When it’s that cold, My ball needs some heat,” Zverev told Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim afterward. “I do try to play heavy. It’s very difficult when the ball bounces that low.

“I managed somehow, down 4-1 in the final set, I don’t know how I did it. He, maybe, started to think a little bit. But I started to return much better, played more aggressive as well and obviously very happy with the win.”

Three-time Roland Garros semifinalist Zverev was 9-0 lifetime at Roland Garros when holding two sets to one lead entering today’s match.

None of that mattered much to Griekspoor, who was the more proactive player for sustained stretches of this match.

World No. 25 Griekspoor won 47 of 67 trips to net, often serve-and-volleying down break points to exploit the German’s deep court positioning. Griekspoor also played some timely drop shots in forcing a fifth set.

Down 1-4 in the decider, Zverev regained one break when Griekspoor bumped a low backhand volley into the net.

Serving at 4-3, 30-all, Griekspoor blinked, slapping his second double fault of the game to hand Zverev a break point.

Chatrier fans were chanting “Tallon! Tallon! Tallon!” in an effort to rouse the underdog through the turbulence, but Griekspoor put a backhand into the net as Zverev broke again for 4-all.

“The first thing I did, I changed my return position from very far back,” Zverev told the media in Paris. “I stepped in closer to the line because he was killing me with the serve and volley for a set and a half, for fourth set and fifth set.

“My first mindset was, okay, right, I’m down 4-1, but how do I give myself the best chance to come back? The number one thing I had to take away was his serve and volley game, which was working out very well today for him. So I did that.

“I thought I was returning incredibly well down 4-1. As I said, I played a very good game at 4-1 down. Then, look, he started to think. He started to think at 4-3, and he did do the two double faults. He did maybe miss one or two backhands that he shouldn’t have missed. I feel like I put myself in that position in the fifth set.”

Deadlocked at 5-all, Zverev zapped his 10th ace down the T off a second serve. That helped him hold for 6-5.

An assertive Griekspoor held at 15 to force the fifth-set 10-point match tiebreaker as his entire box stood in support.

Four hours, three minutes into the fight, Zverev sailed a drive gifting the mini break to open the tiebreaker.

That was one of the last mistakes he made in the match.

Drawing the German in with a drop volley, Griekspoor tried to drill a pass down the line, but Zverev held his ground at net and blocked a crosscourt volley winner for 2-1.

That front-court rush sparked a flying smash, a smash and angled volley winner and an inside-out forehand winner as Zverev extended to 6-2.

A sign that tide had turned against Griekspoor came when Zverev hammered a two-handed pass down the line. The ball crashed into the top of the tape, popped up in the air over the man from Haarlem and settled in for a winner and 8-2 lead.

Zverev cracked his 11th ace to close in four hours, 14 minutes.

Olympic gold-medal champion Zverev opened the tournament knocking out king of clay Rafael Nadal in his opener.

Next up for Zverev is either former Paris Indoors champion Holger Rune or 31-year-old Cinderella story Jozef Kovalik for a quarterfinal spot.