Paris — Alexander Zverev’s appetite for five-set marathons showed no signs of shrinking and even blisters on his toes could not stop the German from storming into his first major quarterfinal with a 4-6 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3 6-3 French Open win over Karen Khachanov on Sunday.
The German had survived successive five-setters in the previous two rounds, including saving a match point against Damir Dzumhur in the last 32, but his fatigued legs and blistered feet again worked overtime to carry him over the finishing line against Khachanov.
"All the hours I have spent in the gym [have] definitely paid off as I was down two sets to one in each of the three matches," said the 21-year-old Zverev, who became the youngest man to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros since 2009.
Out for much of the third set, Zverev was fired up by a code violation for being coached from the stands by his father, Alexander Snr, midway through the fourth set and he vented his anger by breaking for a 4-2 lead.
He was fortunate to survive a break point when serving for the set at 5-3, with Khachanov’s blazing forehand clipping the net cord and bouncing just millimetres behind the baseline.
While Khachanov’s misfiring racquet felt the full force of his exasperation, with the Russian punching his strings with his clenched knuckles, Zverev fired down an ace moments later to draw level at two sets apiece.
Despite calling on a trainer to treat blisters on his left toes before fifth set, the world No3 zipped around with ease to break in the opening game of the decider and finished off the 38th-ranked Russian after hours of pulsating action.
Zverev next plays Dominic Thiem who beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-0 5-7 6-4.
Sloane Stephens (US) broke new ground with a 6-2 6-0 thrashing of below-par Estonian Anett Kontaveit in the last 16.
Five times the US Open champion fell at the fourth-round hurdle in Paris but that never looked like her fate as she produced a rock-solid display on Court Philippe Chatrier.
She is the second American into the quarterfinals in the top half of the draw after Madison Keys, whom she beat in the 2017 US Open final, eased past Mihaela Buzarnescu to register her best run at Roland Garros.
Serena Williams can make it three Americans in the last eight if she manages to beat Maria Sharapova on Monday.