Malek Jaziri upsets fifth-ranked Alexander Zverev to reach quarter-finals in Beijing

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Malek Jaziri claimed his third top-five victory of the season by taking out world No. 5 and No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of the China Open on Thursday.

Jaziri, ranked 61 in the world, recovered from a second-set letdown to defeat the young German 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4 in a late night tussle that lasted 2hr 33min in Beijing’s National Tennis Stadium.

The 34-year-old Tunisian, who only made it into the main draw in the Chinese capital as an alternate, saved a whopping 13/17 break points against Zverev and converted each of the three break point opportunities he created against the German’s serve.

The clash witnessed showmanship from both, highlighted by a tweener winner from Jaziri late in the second set.

A frustrated Zverev smashed his racquet into the ground upon the conclusion of the match, as he falls to 5-4 win-loss since lifting the title in Washington in the first week of August, where he had defeated Jaziri in his opening round.

Jaziri, who has wins over a fourth-ranked Grigor Dimitrov (Dubai) and a fourth-ranked Marin Cilic (Istanbul) this year, is enjoying a career-best season in which he has made his maiden ATP final in Istanbul and made the semis of the ATP 500 event in Dubai.

He admittedly struggled mentally during the summer but was given a welcome boost when he made a surprise run to the US Open semi-finals last month, alongside Moldovan Radu Albot.

Prior to this season, Jaziri was 0-5 against top-10 opposition. He is now 3-7 in such match-ups.

“More experience at this level has helped me,” Jaziri told Sport360 after his win over Zverev.

“Playing a top-10 player isn’t the same as facing a top-100 or top-50 player. I gained a lot of experience from my previous matches against top-10 players, even the ones I lost. I learnt a lot of things from those clashes. It’s not that I didn’t understand my game, but now I focus on myself more. I think about how I am playing, rather than focusing on the opponent.

“Today I’m very happy with how I was attacking the net. I won some very important points up at the net at crucial moments. I’ve been working on my serve, and I think I served well in the first and third sets. My serve helped me in the tough moments today.”

Standing between Jaziri and another ATP 500 semi is Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, who defeated Fernando Verdasco in straight sets on Thursday. Victory for Jaziri on Friday would see the Tunisian return to the top-50 in the rankings after dropping to as low as 118 last February.

It has been a good week for Tunisians in Beijing as Jaziri’s compatriot Ons Jabeur qualified for the main draw then defeated world No. 1 Simona Halep in the first round when the Romanian retired injured after losing the opening set 6-1 to the 116th-ranked Jabeur.

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