With a thrilling passion, screaming cleanly at every hit, Bernabé Zapata Miralles made history for Spanish tennis this Friday by beating John Isner 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5) and 6- 3 in three hours and 28 minutes of intense match. After the point that gave him the victory, the Valencian threw himself onto the dirt of court 7, full of spectators who he was winning over and who cheered him on with chants (“Berni, Berni, Berni”), and instantly cried because He had just achieved the greatest success of a hard-working professional career that began in 2015, when he was 18 years old. At 25, he became the first tennis player in the Navy to reach the last 16 of a Grand Slam. Ten were one step away before, all at Roland Garros.
Zapata accumulates six victories since he started playing in Paris two Mondays ago and on Sunday he will face, with nothing to lose, the German Alexander Zverev, third favorite, who beat another American, Brandon Nakashima (7-6 (2), 6-3 and 7-6 (5)). Surely he would have liked more to continue his streak against tennis players from that last country, because to go further than ever in a major, he has eliminated three in one stroke (Mmoh, Fritz (14th in the world) and Isner (37 years old and 26th)). Against the giant (2.08) from Greensboro, he stoically withstood a barrage of winners: 67, 21 of them direct serve. And he built his success on consistency. Isner, winner of 17 titles and finalist another 15 times, committed 73 unforced errors, Zapata, 23. That was one of the keys to the match.
Bernabé was able to close it before, when up to five match points escaped him, three at 5-3 and two at 5-4 of a fourth set that the American took in the tiebreak. But it was his day and he didn’t fall apart. He hit the ball with his soul and found a way to break Isner for the fourth time, to hold the lead and even increase it bravely. Now he wants more. At the moment, after ascending 36 places, she is already in the top-100 for the first time (virtually 95th). “If I was very nervous, I tried to cheer myself up much more to release tension. I need it, because I have mental slumps after playing so many games. I hit hard and cheer myself up,” revealed Bernabé, who is “very happy, because there is no better place for the fruits of labor to come out”. “I don’t know if this is my ceiling, but I’ll leave calmly if I’ve given it my all.”