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Rediff.com  » Sports » French Open PIX: Djokovic eases into quarters, Zverev to face Thiem; Keys, Sloane advance

French Open PIX: Djokovic eases into quarters, Zverev to face Thiem; Keys, Sloane advance

Last updated on: June 04, 2018 00:19 IST

IMAGES from matches on Day 8 at the French Open at Roland Garros

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his fourth round match against Spain's Fernando Verdasco

IMAGE: Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his fourth round match against Spain's Fernando Verdasco. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Resurgent former champion Novak Djokovic reached the French Open quarter-finals for the 12th time on Sunday as he subdued feisty Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-4 6-2.

The Serb, seeded 20 after a well-documented slump, was given a ferocious fight in the early stages with the opening three games lasting 29 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.

But what looked like being a long evening for the 12-times Grand Slam champion ended up being a reasonably comfortable one as he generally called the shots.

One break of serve was enough to take the opening set and although left-hander Verdasco produced some thunderous winners to stay in touch in the second his challenge faded.

Djokovic, who completed his career Grand Slam by winning in Paris in 2016, sped away with the third set and can now look forward to a clash with either David Goffin or Marco Cecchinato.

Italian Cecchinato upsets Goffin to reach last eight

Italy's Marco Cecchinato celebrates winning his fourth round match against Belgium's David Goffin

IMAGE: Italy's Marco Cecchinato celebrates winning his fourth round match against Belgium's David Goffin. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Unheralded Italian Marco Cecchinato stormed into the French Open quarter-finals by upsetting Belgian eighth seed David Goffin 7-5, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 on Sunday.

World No 72 Cecchinato, who had never been past the first round at a Grand Slam, will next take on 2016 champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia.

"For me it's a dream, I'm really really happy," Cecchinato, who rallied from two sets down in the first round, said on court.

"And now I'm playing the quarter-finals, it's unbelievable.

"Forza Italia!," he added as he addressed a small contingent of Italian fans on court Suzanne Lenglen.

The 25-year-old Cecchinato could be joined in the last eight by compatriot Fabio Fognini, who plays third-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic on Monday.

Should Fognini win, it would be only the second time since tennis turned professional in 1968 that Italy has had more than one player in the men's singles quarter-finals at a Grand Slam.

The only other occasion was at Roland Garros in 1973, when Paolo Bertolucci and Adriano Panatta reached the last eight.

Fognini was the last Italian man to make the quarter-finals in Paris in 2011.

Cecchinato found some gravity-defying angles to outmanoeuvre Goffin in the first set.

The Belgian faced more break points in the fourth game of the second set but managed to see them off and after receiving treatment on a sore elbow, he broke for 4-3 before levelling the match.

Sicilian Cecchinato, however, was on fire in the third, which he pocketed when Goffin buried a routine smash into the net.

After an early trade of breaks in the fourth, Cecchinato broke Goffin's serve with a fine backhand winner down the line to move 5-3 up.

Cecchinato kept his cool and won the next game to love, ending the contest with a superb single-handed backhand winner down the line.

Zverev survives another marathon

 

Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates after his fourth round win against Russia's Karen Khachanov

IMAGE: Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates after his fourth round win against Russia's Karen Khachanov. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Alexander Zverev's appetite for five-set marathons showed no signs of shrinking and even blisters on his toes could not stop the German from storming into his first major quarter-final with a 4-6, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 French Open win over Karen Khachanov on Sunday.

The German had survived successive five-setters in the previous two rounds, including saving a match point against Damir Dzumhur in the last 32, but his fatigued legs and blistered feet again worked overtime to carry him over the finishing line against Khachanov.

"I am young so I might as well stay on court for a while and entertain you guys," the 21-year-old Zverev, who became the youngest man to reach the quarter-finals at Roland Garros since 2009, told the cheering crowd.

"All the hours I have spent in the gym has definitely paid off as I was down two-sets-to-one in each of the three matches."

After looking down and out for much of the third set, Zverev was fired up by a code violation for being coached from the stands by his father Alexander Sr. midway through the fourth set and he vented his anger by instantly breaking for a 4-2 lead.

Russia's Karen Khachanov serves against Alexander Zverev 

IMAGE: Russia's Karen Khachanov serves against Alexander Zverev. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

He was fortunate to survive a break point when serving for the set at 5-3, with Khachanov's blazing forehand clipping the net cord and bouncing just millimetres behind the baseline.

While Khachanov's misfiring racket felt the full force of his exasperation, with the Russian punching his strings with his clenched knuckles, Zverev fired down an ace moments later to draw level at two sets apiece.

Despite calling on a trainer to treat blisters on his left toes before the start of the fifth set, the world number three zipped around with ease to break in the opening game of the decider and finished off the 38th-ranked Russian after three-and-a-half hours of pulsating action.

Once Khachanov's forehand was caught by the net, a beaming Zverev thumped his heart with his right palm before he sank to his knees and pumped both fists into the skies.

He will next play seventh seed Dominic Thiem.

Impressive Thiem downs Nishikori to set up Zverev clash

Austria's Dominic Thiem plays a forehand during his fourth round match against Japan's Kei Nishikori

IMAGE: Austria's Dominic Thiem plays a forehand during his fourth round match against Japan's Kei Nishikori. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Dominic Thiem ended Kei Nishikori's comeback to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open with a 6-2, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 victory on Sunday and set up a mouthwatering clash with second seed Alexander Zverev.

The Austrian seventh seed, the last man to beat claycourt machine Rafa Nadal on his favourite surface, displayed an impressive arsenal of weapons in the first two sets before regaining his composure after the loss of the third.

Japanese 19th seed Nishikori, on the comeback trail after he ended his 2017 season in mid-year because of injury, seemed to lose interest in the match in the second set but eventually managed to put up a decent fight.

"The first two sets were amazing but then he raised his level and it was 50-50. In the end it was very close and I was a bit nervous in the end as it is always hard to serve to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open," said Thiem, a semi-finalist here in 2016 and 2017.

"I love these conditions; it was the first time for me on Court Philippe Chatrier not playing against Rafa so I could enjoy the court", he joked.

Thiem had too much power and speed for Nishikori, who was overwhelmed in the opening set, which the Austrian bagged with an ace in under half an hour.

It got even worse for Nishikori in the second set as Thiem toyed with him, notably with a stunning drop-shot service return, and the Japanese could manage only nine points in the set.

In the first two sets, the Austrian won 25 of 25 points on his first serve.

In the third set, however, Nishikori stayed in touch as he served better and finished off points at the net, which unsettled Thiem who grew frustrated.

Nishikori seized his first break opportunity at 6-5 to take the set when Thiem's forehand flew long.

The Austrian, who ended 10-times 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 winner.

He then held serve throughout to wrap it up on his second match point when Nishikori sent a forehand long under the eyes of Nadal.

Stephens thrashes Kontaveit to reach last eight

USA's Sloane Stephens celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Estonia's Anett Kontaveit

IMAGE: USA's Sloane Stephens celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Estonia's Anett Kontaveit. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

American Sloane Stephens broke new ground at the French Open with a 6-2, 6-0 thrashing of below-par Estonian Anett Kontaveit in the last 16 on Sunday.

Five times the US Open champion had fallen at the fourth-round hurdle in Paris but that never looked like being her fate as she produced a rock-solid display on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The initial exchanges offered no clue as to what was to follow as the first four games were shared but when Kontaveit double-faulted to drop serve Stephens took control.

Kontaveit could not stem the errors and Stephens, who survived a thriller against Camila Giorgi the previous day, cruised to victory in 52 minutes.

She is the second American into the quarter-finals in the top half of the draw after Madison Keys, whom she beat in last year's US Open final, eased past Mihaela Buzarnescu to register her best run at Roland Garros.

Serena Williams can make it three Americans in the last eight if she beats Maria Sharapova on Monday.

Keys enjoys Sunday stroll into French quarters

USA's Madison Keys in action during her fourth round match against Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu

IMAGE: USA's Madison Keys in action during her fourth round match against Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

No fuss, no drama -- Madison Keys's smooth ride continued at the French Open on Sunday as she brushed aside Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-1, 6-4 to reach her first French Open quarter-final.

The 23-year-old American with power to burn was far too strong for Buzarnescu whose dream run came to an abrupt halt.

Keys has not dropped a set so far and all the talk that her game was ill-suited to clay now looks redundant.

Make no mistake the 13th seed will now take some stopping.

Not that this Grand Slam run is being greeted with the kind of hullabaloo that accompanied her journey to last year's US Open final in which she lost to compatriot Sloane Stephens.

"I think the US Open, for me, was a lot higher energy and just because it was late at night and all of that," she said.

"So to be here and just kind of consistently getting through and just being happy with kind of low-drama matches has been really nice."

Keys admitted in the build-up that she had never watched Buzarnescu in action but quickly got to grips with the unheralded 30-year-old who was playing in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time.

Striking the ball cleanly and powerfully in perfect conditions on Court Philippe Chatrier, the big-serving Keys bagged the opener in the blink of an eye against an overpowered opponent offering little resistance.

It was pretty much the same story in the second set before Buzarnescu's late resurgence caused some anxiety in the Keys camp. The Romanian clawed back from 1-5 to 4-5 but Keys did not panic and closed out victory with an ace.

"When I got to the changeover at 5-4, I was really just focusing on the little bits and pieces of information that I always tell myself before I go out for a serve, just to take out all of the nerves and thinking of the moment," she said.

"Little things like that help me build the point a little bit better, which all in all leads to making smarter decisions."

The draw has opened up for Keys and with Czech 26th seed Barbora Strycova or unseeded Kazakh Yulia Putintseva next up she will be favourite to make the semi-finals.

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