A resurgent Alexander Zverev shrugged off a mid-match wobble to battle his way into a third consecutive French Open semi-final with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory over Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry on Wednesday.
The German exited Roland Garros in agony last year after tearing ankle ligaments in his semi-final against Rafael Nadal, but will hope for a better outcome when he plays sixth seed Holger Rune or 2022 runner-up Casper Ruud on Friday.
"It was the most difficult year of my life," Zverev said of his season-ending injury which needed surgery.
"I love tennis with all my heart and it was taken away a year ago.
"I'm happy to be back."
Zverev piled the pressure on Etcheverry's serve early and was rewarded with a break in the seventh game, but the towering 26-year-old had to claw his way back from 15-40 in the next to hold on to his advantage.
The 22nd seed controlled the tempo of the exchanges and fired a huge backhand down the line before finishing with an easy winner to ensure world number 49 Etcheverry dropped his first set of the tournament in five matches.
But Etcheverry flipped the script to wrap up the second set after sealing two late breaks and went ahead in the next, before Zverev regained focus and mounted a spirited comeback to retake the lead in the contest.
The energetic Etcheverry, aiming to become the lowest-ranked and first unseeded man to make the Paris semi-finals since world number 72 Marco Cecchinato in 2018, went toe to toe with Zverev but surrendered serve midway through the fourth set.
He then hit some stunning winners with his back to the wall but Zverev weathered the storm and completed the victory with a venomous serve to draw huge cheers from the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd.
Zverev, who played his last three matches in the night session, said he found the conditions much more favourable during the day.
"The ball is a lot faster and bounces higher. I practice during the day so the adjustment is more for the night session," Zverev said.
"All in all it does not matter. I'm in the semis of Roland Garros and there is nothing else to talk about."