After his exhausting night shift at the tennis tournament in Beijing, Alexander Zverev struggled through the winner’s interview on the court shortly before three o’clock. Visibly exhausted and slightly in poor health, the Olympic champion had only one wish: “To be honest: I’m just tired and want to go to bed.”

He had “played a lot of tennis in the last few weeks, and I also feel a bit sick,” said Zverev: “I need to rest and recover.”

Zverev wants to regain some of his strength before his quarterfinal match on Monday against Nicolas Jarry from Chile. The round of 16 against the Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was extremely unfortunate in this regard. On the one hand, the Hamburg player had to go through three sets at 6:7 (4:7), 6:2, 6:1, and on the other hand, the duel in Beijing only started around midnight (local time). Zverev criticized the organizers for the late scheduling. “I think we should have changed places,” said the 26-year-old: “I’m not sure we should wait until after midnight to start the match, to be honest.”

Curious first sentence

But Zverev fought against the odds and didn’t let the lost and strange first set upset him. After both opponents had lost their serve game three times each, Davidovich Fokina won the round in the tiebreak. At the break, when the score was 5:4 and 5:6, Zverev sought medical advice from the bench. Even in his first round win against the Argentinian Diego Schwartzman, he didn’t feel well; by the looks of it, he was sick.

The physically weakened Zverev was able to rely on his mental strength again in front of almost empty stands. “I’m happy about the win,” said Germany’s number 1. In the second and third sets he found his way back to his game. The French Open semi-finalist also benefited from the fact that his opponent was losing more and more physical strength. In addition, Davidovich Fokina slightly injured himself when the ball jumped into his eye while trying to play a volley.

Strong competition

Zverev is targeting his 22nd ATP tournament victory and his third this season in Beijing. He recently triumphed in Chengdu, China, and saw this as a further step towards becoming the absolute best in the world after his serious ankle injury. But in Beijing the competition is much stronger, in a possible semi-final there could be a duel with number two seed Daniil Medvedev, with whom Zverev has already competed four times this year – three times with the better end for the Russian.

But Zverev didn’t look that far ahead. Not in full possession of his strength, his full focus is initially on the Chilean Jarry, who had defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece, fifth in the world rankings, in two sets at the start. Zverev is the last German professional at the ATP 500 hard court tournament after Jan-Lennard Struff and Yannick Hanfmann were eliminated in the first round.