Why this German star was thinking of Dubai during his epic Australian Open match

Zverev survived an almighty scare as the former semifinalist dug deep to beat Slovakian qualifier Lukas Klein in five sets

By Reuters

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Germany's Alexander Zverev hits a return during his second round match against Slovakia's Lukas Klein. — Reuters
Germany's Alexander Zverev hits a return during his second round match against Slovakia's Lukas Klein. — Reuters

Published: Thu 18 Jan 2024, 11:28 AM

Last updated: Thu 18 Jan 2024, 7:56 PM

Dubai was on Olympic champion Alexander Zverev's mind as he was battling to overcome an inspired opponent at the Australian Open on Thursday.

Zverev survived an almighty scare as the former semifinalist dug deep to beat Slovakian qualifier Lukas Klein 7-5 3-6 4-6 7-6(5) 7-6(7) and move into the third round.

Rain forced the 4-1/2-hour contest to be completed under the roof on John Cain Arena and Zverev found himself in huge trouble as world number 163 Klein turned up the pressure after losing the opening set to take the next two.

"I would have much rather won in an hour-and-a-half but what can I do," Zverev said. "He played incredible, was hitting every ball as hard as he could from both sides. I didn't really know what to do a lot of the times.

"To be honest, he probably deserved to win more than me. That's how tennis goes sometimes. I'm happy that I'm through but his ranking is no value to how he's playing."

The 25-year-old Klein, whose only previous Grand Slam main draw appearance was at Wimbledon in 2022, was inching towards his first career top-10 win but squandered the chance to break at 4-4 in the fourth set, much to Zverev's relief.

"I was thinking there's a Qantas flight at 11 p.m. tonight straight to Dubai and then one to home," Zverev said, adding that he was just a spectator much of the time as Klein reeled off the winners, finishing with 80 in total.

"I was playing but the match was his hands, he was playing winners or he was missing ... I'm extremely happy to be honest."

But Klein also made 83 unforced errors, compared to only 36 from Zverev, and that proved to be the difference.

Zverev levelled the contest as Klein frittered away a 3-1 lead in the tie-break and the 26-year-old German swapped breaks with his opponent early in the decider before holding his nerve in a tie-break to prevail.

"Now I'm in the third round," said Zverev, who will next face American Alex Michelsen. "It's about recovering and being out here on court because that's what I love to do."


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