Completely exhausted, Alexander Zverev leaned against the wall inside Arthur Ashe Stadium at 2 a.m. and talked about his epic tennis night at the US Open. The Olympic champion raved enthusiastically about the round of 16 victory in the five-set thriller against Jannik Sinner in the heat of New York, sent a declaration of war to the big favorite Carlos Alcaraz – and scolded “the Hitler anthem” as the great excitement of the evening.

“He’s not a particularly smart guy,” Zverev criticized the spectator who disrupted the round of 16 by shouting “Germany above all.” “He started singing the Hitler anthem. That was too much. As a German, I’m not proud of this history and it’s not good to do that.” A short time after Zverev angrily reported the incident to the referee in the middle of the fourth round, the man was taken out of the arena by security personnel. “It was his loss that he didn’t live to see the last two sets,” Zverev mocked.

And what an experience it was 6: 4, 3: 6, 6: 2, 4: 6, 6: 3 in 4:41 hours against the world number six Sinner. With 27 degrees at the start of the match, high humidity and stuffy air in the largest arena in the world in front of more than 23,000 spectators, both professionals fought until they dropped. Zverev cooled his head and neck with ice and changed his soaked clothes and shoes several times. “It was extremely hot and extremely humid, that killed us both,” he said of the conditions.

Strength is dwindling on both sides

At times, Sinner could barely walk in the third set, but got back up. In the fourth round, Zverev said he was “completely exhausted” himself. In the end, however, in addition to the strong serve and aggressive advances to the net, the superior physique was the decisive factor for the Hamburg player. “Today was amazing,” said the 26-year-old, summing up the evening. “It’s one of the best moments of my career.”

The next duel at the Grand Slam tournament in Flushing Meadows promises great tennis again. Defending champion Alcaraz stands for spectacle. Zverev defeated the 20-year-old young star from Spain in three of the previous five duels – and now wants to prevent the dream final of many fans. “Before the tournament, everyone was waiting for two games: Alcaraz against Novak (Djokovic) in the final and Alcaraz against Sinner in the quarterfinals,” said Zverev. “Maybe I can make sure that neither happens. It will be one of the hardest matches for me. I have to recover well.”

After the easy 6: 3, 6: 3, 6: 4 over the Italian Matteo Arnaldi, Alcaraz was already back at the hotel when Zverev made his third quarter-finals in a row at the US Open perfect. The gold medalist at the Tokyo Summer Games celebrated only the second victory over a player from the top ten in the world rankings in the 14th attempt at a Grand Slam. The only one of these successes he had before was against Alcaraz at the French Open 2022. For Zverev it is the tenth quarterfinal participation in a Grand Slam tournament, so he drew level with Michael Stich. Only Boris Becker (23) managed to do this more often in the professional era for men as a German tennis player.

praise from Becker

“It’s in his DNA, it’s in his instincts. He’s an incredible fighter, a stand-up man,” Becker praised him as an expert from Sportdeutschland.TV. “Sascha is back.”

And the next opponent is also impressed by Zverev in the first year after his serious ankle injury in the summer of 2022. “The record is really, really tight against Sascha. We played great matches against each other,” recalled Alcaraz and praised the German number one: “He’s playing really, really well. This year he’s at his top level again.”

The two-time Grand Slam title winner entered his round of 16 with a tape on his left thigh but moved without any visible problems. “It’s nothing serious, it’s just preventive. I had a bit of pain in my left leg,” said Alcaraz, who keeps struggling with injuries.

The Spaniard has been on the pitch for around eight and a half hours at this US Open – Zverev played almost six hours longer. Nevertheless, the Olympic champion doesn’t see himself as without a chance: “I’m here to play. I’ll do my best and fight until the last moment. I’ll be ready.”