Alexander Zverev roared his joy and looked forward to the TV evening to study his semi-final opponent. Only a year after the injury shock, the Olympic tennis champion fought his way back into the top four of the French Open and can dream of his first Grand Slam triumph.
The 26-year-old ended the impressive run of Argentinian outsider Tomás Martin Etcheverry 6: 4, 3: 6, 6: 3, 6: 4 and reached the semi-finals of the clay court classic in Paris for the third time in a row. Zverev converted his first match point after 3:22 hours on Wednesday evening. Now last year's Norwegian finalist Casper Ruud is waiting as the most difficult task in the tournament so far.
"The best match I've played here"
"I'm so happy to be back on this stage and to be able to play again for the chance to win the Roland Garros title. I'll see you again the day after tomorrow," Zverev enthused in the winner's interview on the pitch and showed himself very well at the press conference satisfied. "The match was of a very, very high level. In general, it was the best match I've played here."
Eurosport expert Boris Becker was full of praise: "Great match, important match in his career. Sascha Zverev is back." With the third semifinals at the French Open, Zverev equaled Becker's German men's record in the professional era.
However, this had never reached the final of Paris. For Zverev, in the year after his serious ankle injury in the same place, there is now great success - even if the tasks are becoming increasingly difficult. In the semifinals on Friday, it's against 24-year-old Ruud, who defeated Danish youngster Holger Rune from Denmark in four sets. Zverev wanted to follow the game on Wednesday evening on TV. "I'm expecting a very difficult match," he said of his next game.
The other semi-final is contested by top favorites Carlos Alcaraz from Spain and 22-time Grand Slam tournament winner Novak Djokovic from Serbia. "The tournament is not over for me," emphasized Zverev confidently.
Previously never further than first lap
Zverev endured a tough test on the Philippe-Chatrier court, where he twisted his ankle in the semifinals against Rafael Nadal in 2022, but played his experience against the tirelessly running Etcheverry. Previously, the clay court specialist from Argentina had never gotten further than the first round at the French Open.
Even his second Grand Slam final after the US Open 2020 - where he lost to the Austrian Dominic Thiem - would be something special for Zverev. As German tennis players, only Michael Stich (1996), Gottfried von Cramm (1934-1936) and Henner Henkel (1937) have contested the final of the men's competition in the Stade Roland Garros.
After a balanced start, Zverev increasingly dictated the longer rallies and appeared dominant. When the score was 3:3, he used his opponent's forehand error to break the first break. The 23-year-old Etcheverry got the most impossible balls in the style of a clay court digger. However, Zverev kept calm from the baseline and secured the first round with a well-considered attacking game after 52 minutes.
A lost vibration dampener
Etcheverry had not dropped a set in the previous four games of this tournament. Also because his first round opponent gave up early, he was able to save energy and was on the pitch for more than an hour and a half less than Zverev.
Etcheverry showed his freshness, didn't let the setback deter him and came into play better. After a volley stop by Zverev that was too long, the world number 49 made it. his first break to 4:2 with a passing ball and enjoyed the cheers of the spectators.
Zverev took his opponent's serve straight away, but missed the subsequent chance to equalize with two double faults and a devious overhead ball. Even the vibration damper from the racket was lost, father and trainer Alexander Zverev senior dug out a replacement copy from the stands. That didn't help either: A little later, the sentence was gone after a devious backhand - with his head bowed, Zverev trotted to the bench.
Zverev seemed briefly struck. With four slight mistakes, he immediately lost the first service game and fought his way back out of nowhere. Five wins in a row meant a 5-2 lead - "Come on" Zverev yelled across the pitch in the direction of his box and got the sentence.
In the fourth round, both players started concentrated. The German stayed constant - and made the decisive break to make it 4:3. Zverev fended off two chances from his opponent on his own serve and was allowed to celebrate.