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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sasha Zverev

Three days after he won the Cologne-1 title, Alexander Zverev fought off John Millman 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the Cologne-2 quarterfinals.

Photo credit: Bett1HULKS

Staring at the service box, Alexander Zverev tugged the bottom of his t-shirt up and rubbed his midsection like a man expressing gut-check time.

Zverev showed a stomach for the battle withstanding an unruly second serve and unyielding John Millman 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 charging into his fourth quarterfinal of the season at the Cologne 2 tournament.

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The top-seeded German scored his fifth straight win at Lanxess Arena following his run to the Cologne 1 championship on Sunday.

Today, Zverev withstood 10 double faults and the stubborn Aussie saving six of seven break points in raising his 2020 record to 20-8.

Three days after Zverev dismissed Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3 on the same court to capture his 12th career title in the Cologne-1 tournament, the German picked right back where he left off on Sunday.

Attacking behind a forehand down the line, Zverev broke to open the match. The US Open finalist pounded the Aussie’s forehand wing breaking again in the third game.

Playing with the relaxed intensity of a man on his home court, Zverev was driving the ball down both lines steamrolling through the shutout opening set.

Tennis Express

The 31-year-old Millman flipped the script racing out to a 3-0 second- set as Zverev lost the range on second serve committing four double faults in the set.

Lashing a forehand down the line, the world No. 44 stretched his lead to 5-2.

If you saw Millman upset Roger Federer in a sticky five-set epic at the 2018 US Open, then you know the Aussie is super fit, counters on the run and loves the sweaty grind. Millman showed it all grunting his way through a titanic a 41-shot rally that ended with a Zverev error to earn double set point. After spending the bulk of that point hammering his backhand, Millman displayed the touch of his two-hander bending a soft, short-angled shot off the court to snatch the second set.

Zverev stamped his second straight love hold to start the decider.

The slower slate-colored court can make the finishing shot a challenge, but when Zverev is firing with confidence he can hit through mud. Playing further behind the baseline than Millman to give himself time to set up and unload, Zverev slashed a diagonal forehand breaking for a 3-1 third-set lead.

Jolting a serve winner down the T, Zverev consolidated the break for 4-1.

Second-serve complications intruded on Zverev again who hit successive double faults to face break point in the seventh game. Millman needed a deep return, but didn’t deliver it as Zverev banged a backhand into the corner to save it.

Failing to move his feet on a second smash, Zverev bungled the routine overhead into net then incurred a ball abuse violation warning belting the ball into the seats to face a second break point. Millman missed a forehand down the line but gained a third break point spinning his forehand higher over the net.

Again, Zverev stepped up cranking a crosscourt forehand that left a skidding Millman sliding flat on his back to save it. Zverev navigated the turbulence with a heavy serve for 5-2.

Would Zverev be able to tame his second serve to close?

The top seed spit up his 10th double fault but answered with a pair of serves deep in the box exploiting a Millman backhand error for double match point. Crunching a crackling serve, Zverev closed in one hour, 54 minutes.

The 23-year-old German will play Adrian Mannarino for a semifinal spot.

The No. 8-seeded Mannarino was a 6-3, 6-3 victor over Miomir Kecmanovic

Earlier, Jan-Lennard Struff slugged eight aces and did not drop serve dispatching Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-3, 6-1. Cecchinato was challenged to make a quick turnaround after contesting the Sardinia final on red clay on Sunday.

Struff won 23 of 28 first-serve points and broke serve four times in a 58-minute sweep.

The seventh-seeded German improved to 14-12 on the season. Struff will play Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka next.

Auger-Aliassime Battles Past Erasimov

It was far from simple, but a win nevertheless for Felix Auger-Aliassime on Wednesday in Cologne. The Canadian, a runner-up last week, had to rally from a set down and managed to do so despite the fact that his opponent, Egor Erasimov of Belarus, served for the second set at 5-6.

It was Auger-Aliassime that took advantage of some nerves on the part of the 27-year-old World No.87 as he rallied to break and forced a decider by winning the second-set tiebreaker.

There were three consecutive breaks of serve in the third set that gave the Canadian the lead in the decider, but he failed to serve out the match from 5-4, 40-0 up and ended up having to do it again in a tiebreaker.

"Tonight showed how cruel tennis can be sometimes," Auger-Aliassime said after locking up the 4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(4) victory in 2:45. "He had his chances, serving for the second set, I felt like he was playing a great level of tennis. I tried to stay calm and try different things and adapt. In the end I got a bit nervous, serving out the three match points, but these are things that happen and I'm for sure really happy with how I came back in the last game to save it." 


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