Alexander Zverev overcame some early struggles against Lloyd Harris to win 7-6(6) 6-3 6-4 and qualify for the US Open semi-finals.
Zverev had won 15 matches in a row as he continued his excellent form, a run including not just a Tokyo Olympics gold medal but also the Cincinnati Masters trophy.
The German had dropped just a single set so far, and arrived on the back of a three-set win over Jannik Sinner in his round-of-16 match.
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Harris was one of Zverev’s victims in Cincinnati, but had done well to reach the quarter-finals, beating seeds Reilly Opelka, Karen Khachanov and Denis Shapovalov along the way.
In such an odd and difficult season, with the coronavirus pandemic and the ageing of several of the best players in recent years, Zverev could consider only Novak Djokovic a superior player and this may be his best chance of a Grand Slam event yet.
The 24-year-old reached the final this time last year, but has yet to win any Slam event, though he has also reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open and French Open previously.
At 4-3 in Harris’ favour Zverev - at that point broken just twice so far in the tournament - faced up to two potential breakpoints but the South African needed just one as he rifled a forehand return to give him the chance to serve for the first set, only for the 24-year-old to be immediately broken back.
Zverev survived a tiebreak after holding off a break point challenge and took a first set tie-break 8-6. Harris was left so frustrated that he blasted his sports drink onto the court which had to be cleaned up between sets, with both players having to help out.
The first set win appeared to give Zverev the confidence he needed to push on against his rival, who was seemingly disconcerted by his opponent’s complaints over the replay scenes around the court.
He broke his less experienced opponent and moved into a 5-2 lead as he raced around the court to force Harris onto the back foot and soon took a 2-0 lead.
Zverev ramped up the pressure on his serves at one end and forced errors when Harris was serving to rack up games. The South African then rallied to break Zverev and serve to narrow the gap at 4-2 in the third, and he promptly sent down a flurry of aces to move to 4-3 behind and with a chance of a comeback, holding on to 5-4 and leaving Zverev to serve for the match. But the German stamped on any hopes of a comeback in the next game to reach the last four again.
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