Zverev Wins Epic Roland Garros Quarterfinal Battle Over Alcaraz

Alexander Zverev (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 31, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 3 Alexander Zverev has reached his second straight French Open semifinal. As a sunny Tuesday afternoon morphed into evening, the No. 3 seed from Germany scored an epic 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7) victory over Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz in three hours and 18 minutes with equal parts patience and bravery.

In a rematch of their Madrid final, which the 19-year-old Alcaraz won 6-3, 6-1, Zverev avenged the loss and earned his first Top-10 victory in a major. However, it was anything but easy going.

Next, Zverev will face 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, who downed World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic in a four-set thriller Tuesday night in the 59th renewal of their storied rivalry, in Friday’s semifinal round.

Zverev saved a set point during the fourth-set tie-break that proved to be huge and helped the German to his third victory in four meetings against the World No. 6 Alcaraz.

Early on, Zverev took an aggressive posture and took charge of many of the rallies. It helped contribute to his taking a two-sets-to-none lead. Alcaraz’s frustration began to show, but his desire to win never left him.

After dropping the first two sets, 6-4, 6-4, and coming within two points of losing to Zverev in straight sets, Alcaraz broke and won the third set 6-4. His drop shots were starting to click. Although Alcaraz had never come back from 0-2 sets down in his career, he wasn’t ready to give in, and it was on to a fourth set. The full house that filled Court Philippe-Chatrier for the first men’s quarterfinal was all in.

At 4-all in the fourth, Zverev broke Alcaraz for the third time when the young Spaniard hit his third double fault. However, in serving for the match at 5-4, Zverev was unable to close it out. Instead, Alcaraz broke for just the second time to level the set at 5-all. Then, he held in dramatic fashion, much to the crowd’s pleasure, as he went ahead 6-5. However, Zverev gained a love hold and it was on to a fourth set tie-break.

After exchanging a couple of mini-breaks early on, the score was tied 3-3. Soon, it was 5-4 in favor of Alcaraz and he was waving him arms to get the crowd behind him. Then, at 6-5 and with a set point to send the quarterfinal to a deciding set, Zverev got a mini-break after Alcaraz hit a ninth-shot backhand into the net. Next, he took the lead at 7-6 with a reflex volley winner at the net. With match point on his racquet, Alcaraz dug in and got the mini-break back after Zverev hit a backhand that caught the net. However, at 8-7 and with match point number two on the line, Zverev put it away for the victory.

Zverev, who won 73 percent (68 of 93) of his first-serve points, finished with 39 winners to 34 unforced errors, converted three of eight break points and outpointed his opponent 138-125. Alcaraz struck 46 winners but made 56 unforced errors. He broke Zverev’s serve twice in six tries.

The win was the 23rd career triumph for Zverev at Roland Garros. It ended a 14-match winning streak by Alcaraz that began at Barcelona last month. By reaching the quarterfinals in just his second appearance at Roland Garros, Alcaraz had won 20 of 22 clay-court matches this season.

“At the end of the day, I knew that I had to play my absolute best tennis from the start on,” Zverev said during his on-court interview with Eurosport‘s Alex Corretja. “I’m happy that I did that, obviously. [Carlos] kept on coming back. He’s an incredible player and I told him he’s going to win this tournament a lot of times – not only once. I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all.”

Trevisan reaches first major semifinal at Roland Garros

Forty years after Martina Navratilova won the first of her two French Open singles titles, another Martina, Martina Trevisan of Italy, is making a name for herself at this year’s Paris fortnight.

Tuesday afternoon, the 28-year-old Trevisan, a resident of Florence, defeated No. 17 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3, in a battle of left-handlers that lasted two hours and 21 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The victory was Trevisan’s 10th straight and it elevated the Italian with the perpetual smile into her first major semifinal.

Trevisan, ranked 59th, came into Tuesday afternoon’s quarterfinal riding high on a career-defining nine-match winning streak – eight of them won in straight sets – which included winning her first WTA tour-level title in Rabat, Morocco earlier this month on clay. Her winning streak was the longest for an Italian player in over 10 years, since Flavia Pennetta won 15 straight in 2009.

Two years ago, Trevisan was a 159th-ranked qualifier who reached the Roland Garros quarterfinals. Although she went only 5-20 in WTA Tour main draws between the 2020 French Open and her title run at Rabat, Trevisan achieved much of her success in WTA 125 and ITF-level events, which helped boost her ranking. Now, she’s into the French Open final four.

Credit to Trevisan for overcoming her own nervousness, bouncing back an hour after failing to convert a match point while serving at 5-4 in the second set. After Fernandez rebounded and won the middle set in a tie-break, soldiering on despite being hampered by an injury to her right foot, Trevisan reset and recovered.

After jumping out to a 4-0 final-set lead, Trevisan closed out her third career Top 20 victory with a cross-court forehand winner on the third shot of the rally that the talented 19-year-old Fernandez was unable to get her racquet on.

Trevisan, who won 71 percent (53 of 75) of her first-serve points, struck 43 winners – many of them coming from her powerful forehand side – made 29 unforced errors and broke Fernandez seven times in 14 attempts. She outpointed Fernandez 109-91. The Canadian hit 29 winners but committed 44 unforced errors. She converted only four of 10 break points.

Trevisan was asked by Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim to explain why she thought she won, during a post-match interview after she walked off the court with the biggest win of her career.

“Actually, I don’t know. I’m very happy with making my first [Grand Slam] semifinal,” she said with a smile on her face and a hint of laugher in her voice. “I’ve played a lot of matches during these two weeks. I’m very happy about winning.”

How did she handle not converting her first match point that would have given her a quarterfinal victory in straight sets? “I accepted the situation,” she said. “I felt a lot of tension. I was so nervous. My heart was beating.

“The important thing was to move forward because there was another game, another set if I lost it.”

By the end of the match, after Trevisan secured the victory on her second match point, she was nothing but smiles – a reflection of her personality. “I love to smile,” she admitted. “Sometimes, it’s a strategy. Sometimes, it’s just my personality. I’m playing for my first [major] semifinal. What could go wrong, you know?”

Gauff dreams big, wins convincingly over Stephens

Come Thursday, Trevisan will play No. 18 seed Coco Gauff of the United States, who raced to a 7-5, 6-2 victory over fellow American and 2018 Roland Garros finalist Sloane Stephens.

The 18-year-old Gauff reached her first Grand Slam semifinal with a comfortable, convincing and complete performance against the 64th-ranked Stephens, who was one of three Americans to reach this year’s French Open quarterfinals.

Gauff improved upon her 2020 quarterfinal showing and became the youngest women’s semifinalist at a major since Amanda Anisimova made the Roland Garros semifinals at age 17 in 2019.

“I feel so happy right now,” Gauff said in her on-court interview with Eurosport‘s Mats Wilander. “Words can’t explain. Last year in the quarterfinals, it was a tough loss for me. I think that match really made me stronger and to better prepare for moments like today and for moments I’ll face in the next round.”

Although Gauff was broken while serving for the match, ahead 5-1, she closed out the 90-minute victory on Court Philippe-Chatrier soon after when she broke Stephens for the sixth time. Gauff won on her second match-point opportunity after Stephens lofted a ninth-shot forehand past the baseline. She is yet to lose a set through her first five Parisian wins.

“Last time I played [Sloane] I lost,” Gauff recalled, remembering her straight-loss to Stephens in last year’s US Open second round. “So, I’m glad that today went different. Honestly, I told myself to stay mentally prepared. I knew there would be some shots I probably should have made, and some shots that she gets in the court, that no other player gets in the court. I think it was a mental challenge today.”

Gauff hit 18 winners to 23 unforced errors, won 11 of 13 (85 percent) second-serve returns and outpointed Stephens, who was appearing in her third French Open quarterfinal, 68-23. Coming in, Gauff became the first woman to reach multiple Grand Slam quarterfinals before turning 19 since Nicole Vaidisova achieved the feat in 2007.

Looking ahead, Trevisan beat Gauff in their only previous head-to-head meeting. It came beat in the second round at Roland Garros two years ago. Gauff is a different player now – a Top 20-caliber one – who recently got her high school diploma, an achievement she has said was more difficult that making the Roland Garros semifinals. However, it’s something that’s meant so much to her.

“I believe in myself. Last year, I think I was too focused trying to fulfill other people’s expectations,” Gauff said. “Now, I just try to enjoy life. I know no matter how good or bad my career is, I think I’m a great person. That’s a message for all the young players out there. … In life, in general, your results or your job or how much money you make doesn’t define you as a person. Just know that if you love yourself, who cares what anyone else thinks.”

Around Roland-Garros

• Unseeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States rallied to upset No. 1 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain, 3-6, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (10), to reach the French Open men’s doubles semifinal round. They will face No. 4 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, who eliminated No. 6 seeds Neal Skupski of Great Britain and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

• Unseeded Americans Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend advanced to the semifinals of the women’s doubles. They defeated Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-5. Joining them are No. 14 seeds Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine, who beat Belgian duo Kimberley Zimmermann and Maryna Zanevska, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

• N0. 3 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and John Peers of Australia advanced to the mixed doubles semifinals with a 7-5, 6-2 victory  over unseeded Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic and Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador.

Tuesday’s French Open results

Wednesday’s French Open order of play

By the numbers 

Martina Trevisan is the first Italian woman to reach the Roland Garros semifinals since Sara Errani in 2013.

“Quotable …”

“It’s a huge challenge and probably the biggest one you can have here in Roland Garros. I’m ready for it. … I like the way I have been feeling, the way I have been hitting the ball. I will focus on what I need to do.”

Novak Djokovic, World No. 1 and French Open top seed, on his 59th career head-to-headed meeting with Rafael Nadal in the men’s quarterfinal