Zverev tames Basilashvili

SHANGHAI — Alexander Zverev fought off a cold and the blistering power of Nikoloz Basilashvili at the Shanghai Masters Wednesday, calling the Georgian “the hardest-hitting player I have ever played against”.

The young German star and fourth seed joins Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro in the last 16 after defeating the on-form Basilashvili 7-5, 6-4.

The 21-year-old Zverev suffered an early exit last week at the China Open in Beijing, where Basilashvili beat Del Potro for just his second ATP title Sunday.

Zverev, who departed the Beijing hard courts by smashing his racket, kept his cool this time to beat Basilashvili in 92 cagey minutes.

Zverev, who said that he had a sore throat and blocked nose, will play Australia’s world-ranked 33 Alex de Minaur next.

De Minaur, 19, defeated France’s Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-3 to enhance his growing reputation.

Zverev said that Basilashvili, who is up to a career-high ranking of 23, “knows how to play, definitely”.

“Probably the hardest-hitting player I have ever played against,” said Zverev.

“I mean, I played all right. I played a solid match. I did everything that I needed to win.”

The 30-year-old Argentine Del Potro outlasted stubborn Frenchman Richard Gasquet to stay in the hunt at the Masters 1000 event.

Del Potro, who similarly suffered with cold and flu in the China Open final, was broken on his service to immediately go a game down.

But under pressure from the 32-year-old Gasquet, the third seed belatedly found his rhythm, coming from behind in both sets to win 7-5, 7-6 (9/7).

Del Potro, who sealed the match with an ace and a swing of his fist, will face 13th seed Borna Coric of Croatia next.

Pliskova, Sabalenka thru

Top seed Karolina Pliskova bulldozed her way into the Tianjin Open quarterfinals by beating Slovenian Polona Hercog 6-1, 6-2 Wednesday as the Czech power-hitter eyes a place at the WTA Finals later this month.

Pliskova, currently holding eighth spot in the Race to Singapore standings, must reach the semifinals in Tianjin to secure one of the three available qualifying places for the season-ending tournament starting on Oct. 21.

The world number seven’s 50-minute win came after a powerful start and she claimed 80 percent of her first-serve points.

Fellow Czech Barbora Krejcikova or Briton Katie Boulter awaits Pliskova in the last eight.

Fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka, who must lift the Tianjin trophy to maintain her slim chances of a WTA Finals debut, beat Poland’s Magda Linette 6-1 6-3 to reach the last eight. — Agencies