It was a tale of two players bidding to reach the last 16 at Roland Garros for the first time. Believably, given his young age, Alexander Zverev was the one most attention was on. He comes into the tournament seeded No. 2 and has definitely showed his credentials on clay over the past two years.
Yet the question of whether he has the stamina, both mental and physical for best-of-five bouts throughout the tournament. He has already been tested once in the second round, and Damir Dzumhur proved to be a challenging opponent looking, even having match point in the decider before Zverev scrambled to save it and hold, before striking straight back with the crucial break. Zverev served out his place in the fourth round where he will await the winner between Lucas Pouille and Karen Khachanov.
“I think it was important to kind of see for myself that I can win back-to-back five-set matches and both very difficult physical matches.
”I was feeling fine physically, so for me that gives me a lot of confidence going deep into the fifth set, going long matches on this kind of surface. And knowing that I’m fit enough 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 to myself, as well.”
While Zverev is still becoming a force to be reckoned with in Slams, someone who should be used to it still has not found his way past round three. Grigor Dimitrov has an early exit here now in eight appearances at the French Open, and if the truth be told barely got past Jared Donaldson in the second round.
The American pushed Dimitrov in his first five-set match at Roland Garros, but Fernando Verdasco, who can be a tricky customer to many early on in a slam, had no trouble dispatching the Bulgarian No. 4 seed.
It is not as though Dimitrov cannot raise his game at the Slams – he has been a semi-finalist at Wimbledon 2014) and most recently at the Australian Open (2017). He even had a half way decent clay court build up reaching the semi-finals in monte Carlo and the quarter-finals in Barcelona but was disappointing in Madrid and Rome, not getting past his opening matches.
He said, after his match: “It’s going to be a tricky one playing against Fernando. It’s never an easy match. I lost to him earlier this year I think in a tight match. Today was pretty much the same. What can I say? It’s a shame, because physically I felt good.
“I still had some time to kind of get into a rhythm, get into a different match, and just didn’t happen. You know, simple as that.
“Obviously I really expected to play better on clay. I mean, throughout the last matches I played, even in the Madrid, Rome, Paris, all matches, I had everything to win. So absolutely my fault.
“I need to reassess that a little bit more. Every year I pretty much play well on the clay but never good enough to have a better result.”
Both clay and grass tend to be good levellers on the tour, so there is still hope for Dimitrov, but for now it is safe to say the Next Gen are overtaking Generation Lost Boys.
Play continues at Roland Garros at 11am (10am BST).
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