Seventh seed Dominic Thiem breezed through to his third consecutive French Open semifinal on Thursday, though the Austrian progressed in a rather bittersweet manner, with his friend and second seed Alexander Zverev struggling heavily with what seemed to be a hamstring injury in the second and third sets out on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Zverev has proven his psychological toughness and bodily stamina in reversing the deficits in Paris. In all three of his five-setters he has trailed 2-1 in sets. Djokovic may not go on to win the tournament, but putting himself in the conversation to challenge for majors is something that will please him for now and he should book his place in the semi-final with a win here against Cecchinato.
In women's play, 13th-seeded Madison Keys reached the quarterfinals for the first time at the tournament by beating No. 31 Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, 6-1, 6-4.
The Austrian, who ended 10-time French Open champion Nadal's streak of 50 consecutive sets won on clay in Madrid, broke decisively for 4-3 in the fourth set with a trademark forehand victor.
Alexander Zverev must beware of mental fatigue after three five-set matches in a row when he takes on Dominic Thiem in a much-anticipated French Open quarter-final clash tomorrow, said three-time Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander.
"At the end, I was nervous", Thiem admitted. Prior to the event, my data had Zverev as marginally the better player on clay in the last 12 months, enough to make him a [1.80] - [1.90] priced favourite. Match by match, I was playing better and better, and that shows that I increased [my] level. Both are in the quarterfinals in Paris for the first time. "That's impressive. I think you're the only person who will actually make me smile right now". Nadal and Federer have returned from injury and surgery respectively to dominate the scene since early a year ago, topping the ranks, winning the last five Majors between them, with Nadal favourite to win his 11th French Open this week.
Clearly still wound up after a 6-3 7-6 (4) 1-6 7-6 (11) defeat Djokovic gave one or two word answers to several questions and cast doubt over his participation in the grasscourt season. And the last 10 years you needed to beat at least two of them in a Grand Slam to win, and not many players did it. He is a 25-year-old from Sicily who once was handed a match-fixing suspension that later was thrown out on appeal. He was also taken to five sets by Dusan Lajovic in the second round and saved match point against Damir Dzumhur in the third, but getting through is all that matters to him. It's going to be between Rafa and him... He chatted with himself during changeovers - "I like to talk", he said later - and dropping down onto the red clay after one last backhand victor on match point. I thought maybe it's just soreness or something that would just go away.
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