PARIS, France, Oct 4 – Twelve-time champion Rafael Nadal breezed into his 14th Roland Garros quarter-final on Sunday as Dominic Thiem survived an epic five-setter and Alexander Zverev stunned the coronavirus-affected tournament by admitting he played despite being sick and was struggling to breathe.
On a dramatic windswept and chilly day in the French capital, teenagers Jannik Sinner and Iga Swiatek created shockwaves by reaching their maiden Grand Slam quarter-finals.
Nadal beat American qualifier Sebastian Korda 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 to stay comfortably on course for a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam crown.
It was Nadal’s 97th win at the tournament against just two defeats since his title-winning debut in 2005.
“It was a good performance and I am happy with that,” said Nadal who has now made his 42nd quarter-final at a major.
He will next face Italy’s Sinner, 19 and ranked 75, who defeated Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to become the youngest men’s Grand Slam quarter-finalist since Novak Djokovic in Paris in 2006.
In a tournament turned upside down by the coronavirus, which meant a four-month delay and with a crowd capacity of just 1,000 a day, Zverev admitted he had played despite illness.
The German star, runner-up to Thiem at the US Open, raised questions over whether he should even have been allowed to take to the court when he revealed he had been feeling ill since his win over Marco Cecchinato in the previous round.
“I am completely sick after the match with Cecchinato in the night. I can’t really breathe, as you can hear by my voice,” said Zverev.
– ‘I shouldn’t have played’ –
“I’m not in the best physical state. I shouldn’t have played.”
Zverev, 23, was up to date with his tournament-mandated Covid-19 tests, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said in a statement. His last one was on September 29.
However, the FFT added that the German “did not consult the tournament doctors before his match”.
Zverev’s previous coronavirus test was negative. The result was received on September 30.
“Today (Sunday) he received a reminder for his next test, to be carried out within five days of the previous results,” the FFT added.
Sinner is first player to reach the last eight on his Roland Garros debut since Nadal lifted the trophy in 2005.
“Today was very tough knowing that it’s going to be a long match but in the end I’m very happy about my performance,” said Sinner.
Third seed Thiem, the runner-up to Nadal for the last two years, was given a major scare by France’s Hugo Gaston, ranked at 239, who stunned 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in five sets in the third round.
Thiem made the last eight for a fifth straight year but had to battle for a 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3 win and will now face Argentine 12th seed Diego Schwartzman for a place in the semi-finals.
“He plays drop shots from another planet,” 27-year-old Thiem said of Gaston, the last Frenchman in the draw. “I was lucky to make it through.”