Played poorly, but won: Alexander Zverev is in the quarterfinals of the French Open. But if the Olympic champion in Paris really wants to play for the title this year, he will have to improve drastically.

In the condition of Sunday, when he defeated the Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles 7: 6 (13:11), 7: 5, 6: 3 in the round of 16, he will not have a chance in the following games of the hot tournament phase. Especially when it comes to tennis prodigy Carlos Alcaraz from Spain on Tuesday, who had to play against Russian Karen Chatschanov on Sunday evening.

“I think he played the best tennis of his life,” said Zverev after the game. He himself was miles away from that. Zverev actually got off to a good start on the Suzsanne Lenglen court. The German number one seemed focused and quickly pulled away to 4:1 with two breaks. But then Zverev apparently thought he was already certain of entering the quarterfinals. Unfocused and sluggish, he made sure that the playfully limited but self-sacrificing Spaniard found his way back into the game.

In the tie-break, Zverev even had to fend off three set balls, one of which Zapata Miralles even gave away the possible set win with a double fault. So Zverev got the first set after 64 minutes with the fourth set ball.

But that didn’t give Zverev any security either, the right focus on the game was still not there. Zapata Miralles managed a quick break and he even commanded the action for a while. Although Zverev made the re-break to make it 2: 2, he promptly returned his service himself. By the end of the second section, Zverev’s statistics already showed 51 avoidable errors.

The fact that he still won the set after just over two hours of play was because Zapata Miralles was afraid of his own courage at the crucial moments. In the third set, the outsider’s strength also dwindled. Zverev didn’t play well, but used his first match ball after 2:45 hours.

Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, is still in top form. The world number one from Serbia won his round of 16 against Argentinian Diego Schwartzman 6: 1, 6: 3, 6: 3 and showed a convincing performance.

The 35-year-old, who had missed the Australian Open at the beginning of the year after a lot of back and forth because of his missing coronavirus vaccination, played with great concentration and did not allow himself any weakness. “I am very satisfied with my performance. But it’s not over yet,” said Djokovic, who is aiming for his 21st Grand Slam title in Paris. He would draw level with Nadal.

In the quarterfinals, there could now be a tennis classic between Djokovic and Nadal. The 13-time Paris champion from Spain was still on the pitch in his round of 16 late Sunday afternoon against Felix Auger-Aliassime from Canada, who was coached by his uncle Toni.