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.
Showtime from Jaziri! 🎉
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) October 4, 2018
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.
Aryna Sabalenka will be looking to post her eighth top-10 victory of the season when she takes on world No. 8 Caroline Garcia in the China Open third round on Thursday.
Only Kiki Bertens has recorded more victories against top-10 opponents in 2018 (she has 10) and Sabalenka can get closer to the Dutchwoman’s tally with success over Beijing defending champion Garcia.
Sabalenka is also carrying a seven-match winning streak entering this clash, having won the title in Wuhan last week. The 20-year-old defeated Garcia in their sole previous meeting which came in Cincinnati in August. Sabalenka saved a match point en route to a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 triumph over the Frenchwoman there.
Ranked a career-high No. 16 in the world, Sabalenka is at 11 in the Race to Singapore and is still in contention for the top-eight season finale.
The Belarusian is bidding for a 43rd main draw win of the season – she’s one of nine players to reach 40 wins for the season (alongside Kvitova – 47, Halep – 46, Kerber – 45, Mertens – 43, Barty – 43, Bertens – 43, Karolina Pliskova – 43 and Goerges – 40). Prior to 2018, Sabalenka owned just 12 main draw victories in total.
Watch Sabalenka discuss her rapid rise in the interview above with Sport360.
Here’s a glimpse at her warm-up hit with her coach Dmitry Tursunov ahead of her match with Garcia on Thursday…
Naomi Osaka had a great Tuesday here in Beijing as she handed out a 6-1, 6-0 drubbing to Danielle Collins in the second round and also found out she secured a spot at this month’s WTA Finals in Singapore.
“AHHHHHHHHH omg I’ve never been so excited!!!” tweeted Osaka when news broke out of her Singapore qualification.
Her excitement showed during her press conference, which was 10 minutes of must-see TV.
The US Open champion was told by a Chinese journalist that there’s been a debate among local media about how they should refer to her in their stories. He asked her if she prefers being called “Naomi” phonetically, or the literal translation of her name in Chinese, which is “Zhimei”.
Osaka asked the reporter what her name actually meant and he said it meant ‘beautiful’.
“Ooh,” Osaka said shyly. “That’s kind of cool.
“My thing is, I like the translation one. But I don’t know, what if someone calls me by my name but I don’t know if they’re calling me?”
She ultimately settled on Zhimei.
Osaka had mentioned in her previous press conference that qualifying for Singapore was a huge goal for her and her team actually tried to hide the news from her that she booked her ticket to the WTA Finals fearing she would lose her “straightforward mentality”, now that the goal has been reached.
The 20-year-old Japanese had won the WTA Rising stars event in Singapore back in 2015 and said she was keen to return. I asked her what her standout memories were from that Rising Stars event, expecting her to mention dumplings or chili crab or the infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands. Instead, she mentioned a fellow player: Ons Jabeur, who was also part of the Rising Stars field.
“I remember everyone ate dinner in this, like, tree. It looks like Avatar at night,” recalled Osaka.
“Then, to be honest, I just remember Ons. She was just talking to me non-stop. I’m really grateful for her because, like, the amount of shyness that I am right now, back then it was way worse. So, yeah, I mean, even now to this day, she still does some weird stuff around me. For me, the Singapore is Ons.”
Another journalist asked Osaka about the cover of Australian Tennis Magazine on which she is featured, with the tagline: Queen of Cool. Does she feel like the ‘queen of cool’?
“I think actually I’m very emotional. So the fact that people tell me that they can’t read my emotions too much, I think it’s been something I’ve been working on for years now. Just the fact that it’s finally paying off, I think it’s exciting,” said Osaka.
“But I don’t like the word ‘cool’ because then I feel like when someone meets me, they’ll be disappointed or something. So, uhm, they can use ‘expressionless’ or something.”
Don’t think ‘expressionless’ would have fit on the cover though!
Meanwhile, Juan Martin del Potro was also in a good mood when he spoke to the press after his straight-sets win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas to make the second round.
The Argentine top seed turned 30 recently (on September 23) and joked that he already feels “mature” now that he’s hit that magic number.
“Thank you for saying that,” he said with a smile, when he was reminded of his age.
“Do I look older? No? I think I’m mature now. No, I think is the same. I had a nice party at home with friends, family. We had many things to celebrate, not just my birthday. I think I could be playing for more years. I don’t know how many. But I’m feeling good with 30, so we’ll see in the future.”