NEW YORK: An out-of-sorts Alexander Zverev was dumped out of the US Open third round on Saturday after losing a fierce battle of wills with compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber in four sets.
The Germans were meeting for the fifth time with Zverev having won the last two encounters but there was little the fourth seed could do to stop an inspired Kohlschreiber, who won 6-7(1) 6-4 6-1 6-3 at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
The versatile 34-year-old showed none of the mental fragility that has dogged him in the past, recovering well after being trounced in a first set tiebreak to set up a last-16 meeting with Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the 21st seed.
Zverev, billed as the most likely of the new generation of players to break the stranglehold that Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, and Novak Djokovic have had on the sport’s biggest prizes, showed once again that he is not yet the finished article.
Like Kohlschreiber, the 21-year-old is an excellent all-round player and possesses a far more potent serve than his countryman, but his temperament under pressure is also suspect.
Zverev teamed up with Ivan Lendl ahead of the US Open, bringing the eight-time Grand Slam champion on to his coaching staff in an attempt to take the next step in his career.
Going by the evidence served up on Saturday, Lendl has his work cut out for him.
“It’s a process,” Zverev told reporters. “I took (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 next year.”
“He told me before the tournament started that, hopefully you’ll do very well at the US Open, but we’re more looking towards… being at the latter stages, competing for slams next year.”
Zverev committed 53 unforced errors, seven double faults, was helpless against Kohlschreiber’s backhand slice and lacked any sort of killer instinct, converting only three of his 13 break point opportunities.
“(Kohlschreiber) has everything,” Zverev added. “He can use a lot of top spin, can hit the ball flat, use a lot of slice. He can mix it up well. It’s tough to get a rhythm against him sometimes.”
Zverev cut an increasingly frustrated figure as the tide turned against him, talking to himself and turning to the player’s box time and again in the hope of a solution.
He conceded defeat with a forehand error, sending Kohlschreiber into the fourth round for the fifth time in his career.
“It was a very entertaining match,” Kohlschreiber said in his on-court interview. “You have Sascha with the big serve, big strokes, but I was very happy with the variety in my play.”