Dominic Thiem became the first Top 3 seed to get tested Sunday at the French Open. The 2-time finalist hadn’t dropped a set en route what should have been an straightforward fourth round over French wildcard Hugo Gaston.
The but the 20-year-old Gaston, ranked No. 239, was playing the part nearly perfectly going down two sets. But then Thiem got aggravated with Gaston’s tactic of drop-shotting nearly every other point.
With the lack of rallies and Thiem unable to put away volleys and re-drops, Gaston snuck out the third and fourth sets, and was poised, ready and fit to pull off a second straight upset over a Slam winner – he beat Stan Wawrinka on Friday.
Thiem started tracking the drop shots better in the fifth and was able to force Gaston into errors. The Austrian finally got the break at 4-all and then was served it out for a 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3 to reach his fifth straight French Open quarterfinal.
“I think it was an amazing match by both of us,” Thiem said told the crowd after the 3h32m win. “Haven’t seen for a very long time a player with such a big touch in his hands. His drop shots are just from another planet, I was sprinting like 400 times to the net. All the credit to him. If he continues like this, he’s going to be a huge, huge player and make a lot of joy in this stadium in the future.”
Thiem has won 5 of his last 6 5-set matches including that US Open final win.
“I couldn’t find the right answer,” Thiem said of Gaston’s drop shot strategy. “In the fifth set I found some new energy. I think I was playing very good again, but it was a great fight until the end and I’m very lucky I made it through today.”
Gaston, who was making his French Open debut, hit 50+ drop shots during the match.
“I love to do some drop shots. But I can do all the shots in my game, so it’s important to change, never the same ball,” Gaston said. “Of course I love to play a drop shot.”
After facing the 5-foot-8 Gaston, Thiem will face an even shorter player on Tuesday in Diego Schwartzman. The Argentine breezed past Lorenzo Sonego 6-1, 6-3, 6-4.
“Against Diego there will be some long rallies,” Thiem said. “He likes these conditions. It’s a little slower and not so high bounce. It will be very difficult.”
Rafael Nadal cruised into his 14th French Open quarterfinal besting American qualifier Sebastian Korda 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.
“I’m in quarterfinals without losing a set and having very positive scores,” Nadal said. “I can’t complain at all, so happy for that.
“I really believe that we are a looking at a great player,” Nadal said of Korda. “He is young. Of course, he had some mistakes in some important moments, but the way that he hit the ball was really impressive.”
After the match, the 20-year-old Korda asked his idol Nadal for an autographed shirt.
“It was definitely the best moment of my life. It was super awesome,” Korda said. “After the match I asked him for a signed shirt when we were tapping rackets. I don’t know if anyone’s ever asked him for an autograph after a match, but that was definitely the coolest moment of my life and one I’ll never forget.”
Nadal will take a 97-2 mark into Tuesday against Jannik Sinner. The 19-year-old Italian collected his biggest Grand Slam match win ousting Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
“It’s not the easiest thing, for sure,” said Sinner of facing Nadal. “I think the record he has here, I think nobody can beat that. He is super confident here,” said Sinner.
“It’s going to be a difficult match for sure. It’s always to go on court with the right attitude, trying to play best tennis, which I have to do if I want to play the same level as he plays.”
Zverev lamented after the loss that he had been running a fever.
“I’m completely sick. I can’t really breathe, as you can hear by my voice. I had a fever as well,” said Zverev who admitted to having a fever over 100F.
“To be honest, I warmed up today. I shouldn’t have played,” he added. “I was hoping maybe for a three-set win or something like that, but I knew from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be easy.”
With talk swirling about why the German was allowed to play, the tournament released a statement.
“Zverev is up to date on his tests, which have all been negative. His last test was on September 29, with results received on September 30. Today he received a reminder for his next test, to be carried out within 5 days of the previous results.”
On Monday, Novak Djokovic returns to take on his first real opponent in Karen Khachanov. Djokovic is 3-1 against Russian but 0-1 in Paris having lost to Khachanov at the 2018 indoors.
Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are also in action. Tsitsipas will take on Grigor Dimitrov.
MONDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
** Court Philippe CHATRIER ** Début à 11h00
1 SD H Petra KVITOVA (CZE)  contre Shuai ZHANG (CHN)
2 SM H Grigor DIMITROV (BUL) contre Stefanos TSITSIPAS (GRE) 
3 SM H Novak DJOKOVIC (SRB)  contre Karen KHACHANOV (RUS) 
4 SD H Fiona FERRO (FRA) contre Sofia KENIN (USA)
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