Things haven’t come easy for Alexander Zverev at this year's French Open, but the fifth-seeded German is into the tournament's final eight. He squeaked out a five-setter in the opening round, and survived another in the third round. Zverev didn't go the distance on Monday, but his 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Fabio Fognini was another battle—but perhaps his best match of the tournament, one that sends him into his second straight French Open quarterfinal.
"It was a good match. I didn't start well and he did. He played very aggressive, hitting the ball very hard, which made it difficult," Zverev said. "But then after first set, I mean, I played three very good sets. Very solid from my part. And, you know, happy to be in the quarterfinals now."
Fognini had beaten Zverev in the Monte Carlo round of 16 in straight sets, en route to the biggest title of his career. The Italian took out Rafael Nadal during that run, but he hasn't been able to capture that form since. Fognini fell to Dominic Thiem in the Madrid round of 16, and to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the same round on home soil in Rome. The 32-year-old Italian was going for his first Top 5 win at a major.
"Monte-Carlo, I played horrible," said Zverev. "It's quite simple. I played defensive, I was not hitting the ball. I was serving bad. I was in a bad state of mind, as well.
"Here I played solid. In the important moments I played aggressive. I mean, I think that was the difference. But you cannot compare Monte-Carlo to here, really."
It's been the opposite case for Zverev, who had struggled to string together matches until the week prior to Paris, when he claimed his first title of the season in Geneva. The 22-year-old, who boasts three Masters 1000 trophies, has never been past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam.
Against Fognini on Suzanne Lenglen, Zverev started slow, losing the first set. The match took a turn in the second as the 22-year-old started to settle down, becoming more aggressive and using his heavy groundstrokes to get Fognini out of his comfort zone. He also used his defensive skills to force the Italian into overhitting. Zverev hit his forehand with the same aplomb as he did with his notable two-handed backhand.
Fognini made an effort to try and push the match to a decider, but fell short. Zverev will aim for his first Grand Slam semifinal on Wednesday, but to do so, he'll need to defeat the winner of the last three majors, Novak Djokovic.
"I just wish that it's gonna be a great match and it's gonna be a tough battle," said Zverev, "and that especially against Novak, the world No. 1, it's going to be interesting."
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