Fritz fells Zverev in a marathon for a sweet reversal after 2022 heartbreak

The American was leading two sets to one against a wounded Nadal before losing his way; Rybakina in cruise mode; Musetti ends Perricard’s run

Published - July 09, 2024 01:25 am IST - London

Redemption: Fritz staged an incredible comeback from two sets down to turn the tables on Zverev. | Photo: AP

Redemption: Fritz staged an incredible comeback from two sets down to turn the tables on Zverev. | Photo: AP

Just over two years ago, Taylor Fritz had left Centre Court a broken man. Against a wounded Rafael Nadal, the American let slip a two-sets-to-one lead to miss out on what could have been a maiden Slam semifinal.

On Monday, it was a sweet reversal as the 26-year-old came back from two sets down to oust German fourth seed Alexander Zverev 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-3 and enter the last eight.

Leap year

The result extended Fritz’s fine 2024 where he has either matched or bettered his best performances at each of the three Majors.

With just an inch separating the two burly men — Fritz at 6’5” and Zverev at 6’6” — it was mostly a battle of serves.

The pair took care of this aspect remarkably well; there were just six opportunities to break and both won more than 80% of their first-serve points. But the difference was in the seconds, where Fritz won 69% (34/49) to Zverev’s 47% (18/38).

In the first four sets, Zverev mostly had an answer to Fritz’s ploy of locking him into extended forehand cross-court exchanges. He broke out of the pattern often and used his double-handed backhand lethally.

But in the fifth, Zverev was troubled by his left knee, on which he had a strapping after hyper-extending it in the previous round. The 27-year-old gave up on many a ball, struggled to get to the low ones and couldn’t really recover from a 1-4 deficit.

“I was on one leg today,” Zverev said later. “[But] he is playing great. I think he is going to be in the semifinals. I expect him to win in the quarters.”

The women’s fourth seed Elena Rybakina fared way better, though, taking a 6-3, 3-0 lead over Anna Kalinskaya in just 53 minutes before a wrist injury forced the latter out.

The abbreviated nature of the contest should take nothing away from Rybakina, the 2022 champion. She won 86% of her first-serve points, hit seven aces and 25 winners.

The Russia-born Kazakh was largely untroubled but for the very first game when Kalinskaya broke. The easy power in her strokes may be soothing to the eye, but they are no less than cannonballs.

Dictating terms

From 1-3 down, the 25-year-old reeled off five straight games, a stretch during which she didn’t allow the 17th seed a single service point. A minor wobble when she went a break-point down while serving for the first set was taken care of with a monstrous ace down the T.

Kalinskaya, a clean-striker herself, came up with a few delectable shots, but the injury, for which she received a medical time-out before the eighth game of the opening set, hampered her. It was not long before the 25-year-old Russian waved the white flag.

Elsewhere, Italian Lorenzo Musetti stopped the stunning run of Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 victory to set up a meeting with Fritz.

The 21-year-old Frenchman — with his penchant for the net-rushing game, the kind of which attracts more eyeballs and draws more footfalls at SW19 than any other place — could have become the first lucky loser in Grand Slam history to make the quarterfinals, but Musetti had his measure.

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