Djokovic impresses, Zverev sets up mouth-watering clash with Thiem


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German second seed Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic edged closer to a possible French Open semi-final clash of generations, with the youngster edging out Karen Khachanov and the former champion seeing off Fernando Verdasco in the last 16 on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Zverev claimed his third successive comeback win in five sets to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final, beating Russian Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Djokovic eased past Spanish veteran Verdasco 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 and will play in the last eight at Roland Garros for a record 12th time.

Zverev produced some stunning tennis in the closing stages of a dramatic fourth-round victory and will next face Dominic Thiem who reached a third successive quarter-final in Paris by seeing off Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4.

Alexander Zverev | Image credit: Reuters
Alexander Zverev | Image credit: Reuters

Djokovic, the 2016 champion and 12-time Grand Slam title winner, has now also reached 40 quarter-finals at the majors. Italian world number 72 Marco Cecchinato stunned eighth seed David Goffin 7-5, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 to set up a French Open quarter-final against Djokovic.

Cecchinato, who had never won a Grand Slam match before arriving in Paris, continued his dream run at Roland Garros by seeing off Belgian Goffin. The 25-year-old, who won his first ATP title as a lucky loser in Budapest earlier this year, will face Djokovic for the first time with a semi-final spot at stake

Stephens powers through

Image credit: Reuters
Image credit: Reuters

US Open champion Sloane Stephens cruised past Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-0, 6-2 to book a last-eight spot for the first time.

Stephens, the 10th seed, had previously made the fourth round for four successive seasons and will next play either Australian Open champion and second seed Caroline Wozniacki or Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.

“Obviously… making the fourth round four times or whatever is pretty good, but to finally get over that hump of quarter-finals feels very nice,” said Stephens.

Wozniacki and 14th seed Kasatkina will return to Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday with the Russian leading 7-6 (7/5), 3-3, after their match was halted when darkness fell. American 13th seed Madison Keys also reached her first Roland Garros quarter-final with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu.

Keys, the US Open runner-up to Stephens last year, will face Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva for a place in the semi-finals, after the world number 98 saw off Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-3. “First week, my goal is to get to the second week,” said 23-year-old Keys. “Then once you get to the second week, every match obviously has more nerves, and there’s more on the line.”

From the sidelines

Sloane wants Federer challenge

US Open champion Sloane Stephens has seen Maria Sharapova hit with Rafael Nadal in Rome. Now she wants to take on Roger Federer after jokingly being snubbed by Nadal.

“It’s, like, Rafa. You have to do more. He was kidding, but, still… I was, like – one day, I’m going to one-up her and hit with Fed, take Fed on grass. I’ve got to one-up her, I’ve got to. I’m going to start asking soon.”

Show-stopping Nadal

Rafael Nadal proved to be a show stopper again at the French Open on Sunday when fans spotted the 10-time champion high above Court Philippe Chatrier conducting an interview with French TV.

So many fans rose to applaud the world number one that the last-16 tie between Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori was briefly held up. Sunday was also Nadal’s 32nd birthday.

Scream and shout

Barbora Strycova wasn’t pleased with Yulia Putintseva after the Kazakh knocked her out in the third round 6-4, 6-3. The Czech 26th seed took exception to Puntintseva’s screaming on the court, accusing her of gamesmanship.

“I think she needs it for her game. And she kind of does it on purpose to get the opponent out of the rhythm. She screams sometimes hard and sometimes for the balls where I’m like, ‘this is just weird’.”

Quotable quotes

“Actually, during treatment yesterday I had Sloane on and was living and dying on every point in the end. I saw her in the locker room, and I was, like, ‘God you made me nervous at the end’. She was, like, ‘you were nervous?’”

– Madison Keys on close friend and US Open champion Sloane Stephens after her third round come-from-behind win against Camila Giorgi.

“What match?”

– Keys joking she knows nothing of Monday’s mouthwatering tussle between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

“I’m expecting another five-set match. I’ll get myself ready for that.”

– Alexander Zverev on his quarter-final clash against Dominic Thiem after having played three successive five-setters to reach this stage.

Numbers up

34 – season-leading wins for Alexander Zverev after defeating Karen Khachanov

200 – clay court match wins for Novak Djokovic

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