In the battle between US Open finalists, sixth seed Alexander Zverev triumphed over Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 on Sunday to race into the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.
Zverev improved to 16-5 at Roland Garros, his joint-most successful Grand Slam in terms of matches won alongside the Australian Open (16-6). He also improved his ATP Head2Head lead over the Japanese player to 5-1, and 3-1 on clay courts.
“I hope I continue playing the same way I did this match. Maybe even better,” Zverev said. “Now we’re in the quarterfinals, there’s only eight of us left, and the opponents are not getting easier. You need to perform at your best, play at your best.”
The German arrived in Paris after lifting an ATP Masters 1000 trophy on the clay courts of Madrid, recording head-turning wins over Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Matteo Berrettini en route to the title – along with a first-round win over Nishikori. Zverev’s Mutua Madrid Open victory marked his 15th tour-level title, and his second of the season after clinching the ATP 250 event in Acapulco in March.
Both Zverev and Nishikori have seen their five-set records tested during this Parisian fortnight. Zverev was taken the distance by qualifier Oscar Otte in the first round, and improved his record in Roland Garros five-setters to 7-0. Nishikori had two five-set marathons under his belt coming into their fourth-round clash, improving to 26-7 in fifth sets, the best winning percentage among active players.
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But Zverev ensured they would not go the distance on Sunday after making a strong start to their Court Philippe-Chatrier night session clash. The German was going to the down-the-line backhand regularly with great success, getting to a 3-0 lead before Nishikori found his footing. That set the tone for the rest of the match as Nishikori found himself making up for lost ground across the one-hour, 57-minute match.
Zverev’s first serve let him down as the former World No. 4 earned his only break of the match at 3-1, consolidating to level the score at 3-3. Zverev never let him get comfortable, dragging the Japanese player from end to end with his heavy groundstrokes. He earned the break back late in the set at 5-4 to close out the opening tilt.
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Zverev sped through the second set at the expense of just one game, opening up a 5-0 lead with a double break. In the third, Nishikori dug his heels in after going down another double break for 0-3, running after every ball and returning with interest. He earned unforced errors from Zverev to earn one of the breaks back, but Zverev took back control after a lengthy battle for 4-1. The German reeled off the last two games comfortably to seal his spot in the quarter-finals.
The sixth seed booked a last-four meeting with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina after the 22-year-old Spaniard battled past Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 earlier in the day. The German leads their ATP Head2Head 2-0 going into their first clay-court match-up.
“No matter who you’re playing, they already won four matches,” Zverev said. “I’m looking forward to that, of course. I know it’s not going to be any easier from this moment on.”
Nishikori was vying to become the 51st player in history to record 100 men’s singles match wins at the Grand Slams. He is now 13-11 on the season.
Did You Know?
Zverev is now the second German man in the Open Era to reach three quarter-finals at Roland Garros. He follows in the footsteps of Boris Becker, who advanced to this stage on four occasions between 1986 and 1991.