PARIS (Reuters) - Dominic Thiem is looking forward to playing a ‘legendary’ quarter-final match with Alexander Zverev after two of the most talented young wolves advanced at the French Open on Sunday.
Austrian Thiem, the last man to beat Rafa Nadal on clay, was on another planet for two sets in a 6-2 6-0 5-7 6-4 statement win against Kei Nishikori while German second seed Zverev, 21, played a third consecutive five-setter to beat Russian Karen Khachanov.
The match-up between the two will be widely seen as a virtual semi-final, with the winner tipped to take on 10-times champion Nadal in next Sunday’s final.
“It’s, I think, the match, especially in Germany and Austria, everybody was hoping for. So I think we can make it legendary and that would be very nice,” Thiem, 24, told reporters after his huge forehand helped him to destroy Japan’s Nishikori.
Thiem was the last man to beat Nadal on clay, having defeated him in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open when he ended the Spaniard’s run of 50 consecutive sets on the slowest surface.
But he was then beaten in straight sets by Zverev in the final, two years after the Austrian prevailed in the round of 32 at Roland Garros.
Thiem has a 4-2 record against Zverev but he is well aware it will count for nothing when both players set foot on court on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a very tough match against him. He’s going to be pumped. It’s his first quarter-finals. So he wants to move on, for sure,” said Thiem.
“So I hope I’m a little bit more experienced in this one.”
While Zverev still has time to make his mark at the highest level, Thiem wants to do better right now as he is nearly 25 and feels that two French Open semi-finals in 2016 and 2017 might not be enough to quench his thirst.
“I think for me it’s time to move on to make a great step, because I’m turning 25,” he said.
“I’m not that young anymore. That’s his part. He’s only 21.”
Zverev, however, has spent 11 hours and 56 minutes on court in Paris but Thiem believes his rival will be fully fit.
“He has an amazing team. He’s super fit. He played last year an amazing year,” said Thiem.
“He’s playing this year an amazing year, match after match, so I don’t think and I don’t expect him (to be) tired.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by XXXX