Kohlschreiber Stuns Zverev In Third-Round Boilover
Philipp Kohlschreiber is a familiar fixture in the second week at Flushing Meadows. So when the German veteran stepped up on Saturday to take on countryman and fourth seed Alexander Zverev he paid no regard to the 30 places separating them in the ATP Rankings.
Kohlschreiber banked on his variety and measured aggression to rattle the 21-year-old in the biggest upset of this year’s US Open so far. His 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 triumph sent him through to the fourth round in New York for the fifth time in seven years.
“I think I have variety in my game. Yeah, it was very good today,” Kohlschreiber said. “Was hurting him a lot… [The] difference was, I think, I returned his serve quite well, so I was able to manage all the power and force he had to put many balls back.
“Then I think during the points I played with the right strategy. I played low balls, high balls, lots of angles. I think over the time he got more frustrated. Also the match was, I think, in my favour getting a little bit more physical. We played a lot of long rallies. I'm very happy how everything worked for me.”
Zverev, contesting his first Grand Slam under the guidance of Ivan Lendl, admitted it was a combination of factors that led to his downfall. This was an opponent who knew him and his game well.
“He played a good match, played a smart match,” Zverev said. “He mixed it up well, didn't give me a lot of opportunities. On the other hand, I also did over 50 unforced errors, which the last few matches I didn't do. It was a mixture of both.
“It's a process of developing. I took him on [Lendl] to do well at Slams. But this is a process. You can't expect to kind of immediately see the results. I think the results will come hopefully next year.”
Kohlschreiber had lost both clashes with the player 13 years his junior in 2018, including the BMW Open by FWU final in May. But their FedEx ATP Head2Head ledger read 2-2 and Kohlschreiber would have recalled having held off a then 18-year-old Zverev in five sets to claim their lone Grand Slam encounter in the first round at Flushing Meadows in 2015.
This was a player acutely aware aware of his younger opponent’s struggles to push deep on the Grand Slam stages. And it only bolstered his belief.
“It can be very tough in a Slam,” Kohlschreiber said. “You play best-of-five. You play a guy like me, I'm fighting with my last T-shirt, grinding. Maybe that could be a little bit in the back of his head, that it's going to be five sets, it's going to be tough to recover. Maybe sometimes he wants to rush.”
Ignoring his record of having beaten just three of 22 opponents ranked in the Top 10 in the Grand Slams, Kohlschreiber ripped a crosscourt forehand winner on the run before a double fault from Zverev stretched the scoreline to 5-1 in the third.
Zverev’s new coach, the typically steely Ivan Lendl, gave his charge a nod and a clap in an attempt to spark a revival and it seemed to work as Zverev jumped to 3-1 in the fourth. But Kohlschreiber’s confidence had not diminished. He reeled off the final six games of the match and leapt in elation. The 2014 runner-up, Kei Nishikori is next.
Nishikori extended his unbeaten FedEx ATP Head2Head record against last year’s US Open quarter-finalist Diego Schwartzman to 3-0 with a 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 victory. The win meant the Japanese No. 21 seed had reached the fourth round in the three Grand Slams he contested in 2018.
Nishikori missed the Australian Open as he continued his recovery from a wrist injury that cut short his 2017 season in August. The 28-year-old was handed an easy passage through to the third round when fellow former Top 10 opponent Gael Monfils was forced to retire mid-match with a right wrist injury.
But on Saturday, in a clash between two of the ATP World Tour’s bet movers, few points would come easy. In a year in which the Japanese player had fallen as low as No.39 in the ATP Rankings in April, this was one of his most polished performances. He has never dropped a set in two prior FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Kohlschreiber, including a third-round win in Rome this season.