Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev of Germany in action against Lorenzo Sonego of Italy in the quarterfinals of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on March 2, 2023. Zverev advanced to his maiden semifinal in Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Alexander Zverev is very keen to win in Dubai. A win in the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship will signal that the seventh-seeded German is approaching his best after the crippling ankle injury at the 2022 French Open.

There was enough evidence on Thursday as the World No. 16 broke down the stubborn resistance of the Italian Lorenzo Sonego with a 7-5, 6-4 victory to enter the semifinals on his second visit to Dubai. In the last four, seventh seed Zverev will square off against defending champion and second seed Andrey Rublev, who downed Botic van der Zandschulp 6-3, 7-6.

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“I’m starting to play decent tennis, which is nice after nine months. I’m happy about that. I’m happy with how the match went. I’m also happy how I handled the pressure situations. So there’s a lot of positives to take from that,” Zverev told reporters.

It sure was decent tennis. Zverev, who was consistent from the baseline, and didn’t miss out on the forays to the net to tuck away the volleys. World No. 67 Sonego matched Zverev, a former World No. 2, in volleying throughout their one-hour, 52-minute match but made several unforced errors at crucial points.

In the duel of big servers, Zverev came under pressure and had to save six break points. Three of them were in the final game when Sonega threatened to prolong the set. But the winner of 19 ATP titles pulled off some big serves, the last one an ace, to win the match.

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“In those [tight] moments, you’ve got to go back to the basics. You’ve got to play each point by itself; you’ve got to remember what you can control. That is always your serve. That’s the only shot in tennis you can control purely by yourself. It obviously helps that I hit five first-serves in a row, and then the match was over,” Zverev said at the courtside interview.

The German had a prolonged recovery following the injury, and this is his first semifinal since his return. “It’s been a very difficult time for me over the last nine months. I haven’t played tennis for such a long period for the first time in my life. It definitely shows that the hard work is paying off, and I’m extremely happy with my progress and how I’m playing right now,” Zverev said.