Alexander Zverev cut a vastly different figure on court Friday compared with when we last saw him there less than 24 hours earlier.
On Thursday evening, playing American Taylor Fritz, it was gloomy. Zverev was struggling to see. He was also battling a stomach bug. He left the court after the second set to vomit. He lacked energy in the third, and trailed two-sets-to-one when bad light suspended play.
Yet when he returned, the weather was warmer. The conditions were brighter. Zverev felt a little better. And he dropped just three games to wrap up a 6-4 5-7 6-7(0) 6-1 6-2 win to seal a spot in the last 32.
Threesy does it…
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 6, 2018
His victory as fourth seed was in stark contrast to what was happening on the women’s side of the tournament; losses to Venus Williams and Madison Keys mean just two of the world’s top 10 remain alive in the draw.
While Zverev was playing catch-up to complete his held-over match, several third-round contests unfolded on Friday.
Gael Monfils stunned last year’s semifinalist and 11th seed Sam Querrey in four sets on Centre Court and will next face No.8 seed Kevin Anderson, who got past Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 7-5 7-5.
Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded 31st, also advanced after beating qualifier Thomas Fabbiano for the loss of just seven games.
But the focus of the day was largely on No.1 Court, to see if Zverev would dig himself out of the hole he was in, or slump to another earlier-than-expected Grand Slam defeat.
The German has last month enjoyed a breakthrough in Paris with a succession of five-set wins to reach his first major quarterfinal, and again dug deep on Friday.
“The difference between now and a year ago, probably a little longer ago, is that when I’m down two sets to one or something like that, I don’t really panic. I’m very calm. I try to find ways to win. I think that’s a very big difference,” Zverev said.
“(Today I was) seeing the ball big. I was returning much better, because it was brighter. From the baseline, I was hitting it big. Maybe rushed him a little bit more. Didn’t give him as much time. Partly I stepped in because, as I said, I was seeing the ball much better.
“I knew that the conditions would help me, as well, I could easily win that match.”
Sascha Zverev won the fourth set 6-1 over Fritz in just 21 minutes. Going five. #Wimbledon
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 6, 2018
Despite dropping just three games on the match’s resumption, the contest felt closer. There are striking similarities between Zverev and Fritz; they are separated in age by just six months and in height by just two inches, are both former world No.1 juniors, are both tall, rangy players who move well for their size, and are both powerful ground-strokers from the back of the court.
What elevated Zverev above his 68th-ranked compatriot in the absorbing rallies was the fact he redirects the ball a little better, has a touch more pop on his shots, and those shots are less prone to breaking down.
Fritz’s backhand misfired in the fourth game of the final set allowing Zverev to break for a 3-1 lead; three more unforced errors from the American in the seventh game pushed Zverev ahead 5-2. He closed out the match relatively routinely in the next game.
“I won a tough match. That’s all that matters,” said Zverev, who next faces qualifier Ernests Gulbis, a former top-10 player.
“Obviously winning a tough match sometimes gives you a lot of confidence. That’s what I feel today. I feel like set four and five I played great tennis. That’s what I’m going to take from this match.”
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