Twelve months ago, Alexander Zverev had to pass through the fire and water to reach the quarter-final at Roland Garros, his first at Majors. Now, the German is fighting for every win he could get after a slow start of the year and poor results at significant events, beating Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 1-6, 6-2 in three hours and three minutes for the place in the fourth round.
Just like in 2018 here, Zverev had to work hard to overcome the Serb, struggling on the second serve and facing 17 break points. Lajovic delivered seven breaks of serve and that wasn't enough to keep him safe, losing the edge in the decider and surrendering serve eight times in total to end his run in the third round.
Alexander had 52 winners and 55 unforced errors, leaving Lajovic on a 25-41 ratio and shifting into a higher gear at 2-2 in the final set for Grand Slam win number 28. The first set was far from the level expected at this stage, with too many errors on both sides and the result that went up and down all the time.
Lajovic kicked off the action with a double break (Zverev broke him in game two), wasting five more break chances in games five and seven which would cost him dearly. Alexander broke back in game eight with a forehand down the line winner, building the momentum and closing the set with another break in game ten after 44 minutes.
Carried by this boost, the German lost eight points on serve in set number two, facing no break points and keeping the pressure on Lajovic who couldn't endure it, getting broken in game four after a smash winner from Zverev who grabbed another break in game eight for a 6-2 and a massive lead before the rest of the encounter.
The third set offered high-quality tennis and nine easy holds, with Dusan in the leading role after taming his shots much more efficiently in comparison to the previous part of the match. The Serb never faced a break point and broke Alexander at 15 after a double fault from the German in the third game, controlling the pace in the remaining games and sealing the set with a hold at love at 5-4 to extend his chances and prolong the action.
Tables have turned now and Zverev faded from the court completely, taking only four points on the return in set number four (nine overall in the third and fourth), staying away from break chances and giving serve away three times.
Dusan opened the gap in the very first game following a loose backhand from Zverev, increasing the advantage to 4-1 and securing the set with another break in game seven when Alexander sent a forehand wide. After two and a half hours, the rivals were leveled at two sets each and Zverev had to survive the deciding set to stay in the tournament, just like in the opening round against John Millman.
The good thing is, he served at 81% in the fifth set, losing serve once in the fourth game to draw Dusan back to 2-2 before racing towards the finish line with a strong run, rattling off the last four games to celebrate the triumph and the place in the fourth round, only for the fourth time in a career at Majors.